Tags Posts tagged with "Port Jefferson"

Port Jefferson

Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director at Theatre Three, won't be playing the role of Scrooge in-person this season. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher

Local theatergoers are saying “Bah Humbug” this Christmas because two of their favorite traditions will not be happening.

During the holiday season, families would gather to watch Scrooge confront the ghosts of his past, present and future. In another venue, little children would admire ballerinas in white tutus up on their toes. The Rat King would clash with the Nutcracker.

But because of the COVID-19 crisis, two staples in the Village of Port Jefferson’s art community — Theatre Three’s “A Christmas Carol” and Harbor Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” — have been canceled, leaving these two nonprofits hoping for a brighter 2021.

Jeffrey Sanzel, in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, is working on a new virtual play, ‘A Carol for Christmas.’ Photo by Julianne Mosher

According to Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director at Theatre Three, between 12,000-15,000 Long Islanders have viewed their production of “A Christmas Carol” over the last 35 years.  Sanzel has portrayed the role of Ebenezer Scrooge 1,437 times. “This is the first time in 33 years I’m not doing a stage production of ‘A Christmas Carol,’” he said. “It’s a shame, but I don’t want to do anything to exacerbate the problem.”

In a pre-COVID world, the theater would run the show six days a week with anywhere from 50 to 60 performances per year. Around 30 local actors would take on multiple roles of Charles Dickens’ characters.

After speaking with the village, he and Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant considered an outdoor, socially distanced performance of the treasured production. Sanzel said they had it all figured out; it was going to be four 15-minute shows — a smaller adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” — with a minimal cast, at Harborfront Park.

“I got a cast. We went into rehearsal, and then the governor’s office told [the mayor], ‘No,’” he said.

Three weeks ago, the village received word from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office that they were not allowed to host an event outside that could draw a crowd. “I was all for it, and the actors were all set,” he said. “We were right down to discussing what they need to wear under the costumes when it’s below zero outside, socially distanced, in face shields.”

So, it was back to the drawing board. Sanzel and his team decided to create a free, virtual performance that will be filming this week. Titled “A Carol for This Christmas,” it will be available for viewing on Facebook, Vimeo and the theater’s website (www.theatrethree.com) in mid-December

“In a period of two days, I cast it, wrote it and went into rehearsal again,” he said. The 45-minute film will be set in a closed theater and features six actors playing the many roles in the story. The actors will be filmed socially distanced, in various parts of the theater, while wearing masks.

Sanzel said this would be the theater’s gift for the community. “This will be our contribution,” he said. “The actors have all donated their services because they’re just happy to be doing something.” He hopes that this event will keep the theater’s name alive and bring attention to an industry that is struggling hard throughout this crisis. “We want people to know that we understand what’s going on in the world,” he said.

This weekend would’ve marked the Port Jefferson Charles Dickens Festival’s 25th anniversary, an event that always kept Theatre Three busy. The announcement of its cancellation this year is devastating for the community, said Sanzel. “The Dickens Festival brings people into the village,” he said. “It’s a great weekend, and even if people aren’t seeing the show, they become aware of the show and buy tickets for the future.”

Amy Tyler
Worrell had to cancel the Harbor Ballet Theatre’s ‘The Nutcracker’ this year. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Amy Tyler Worrell, who owns Amy Tyler School of Dance up the hill on Reeves Road with her husband John, agreed. “People who are coming to town can go out to dinner in Port Jeff and then come see ‘The Nutcracker’ or go shopping,” she said. “Being able to go out to ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’ gets people excited.”

Worrell’s studio is celebrating its 33rd year in the Port Jefferson community. Within the school is the couple’s nonprofit, Harbor Ballet Theatre, which puts on ‘The Nutcracker’ at the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School during the Dickens Festival. This would have been their 29th year.

“My family — my parents, my husband, my kids — all helped out with it,” she said. “But there are a lot of other families here who had the same experience. It’s kind of a letdown for them.”

When COVID-19 began in March, the studio needed to shut its doors and move to online classes via Zoom. They couldn’t hold their annual recital in June in-person, resulting in doing it online. During the summer, they found out they couldn’t hold their ballet in-person this December.

“The families say this kicks off their holiday season,” she said. “Some of the parents are in the show, some help backstage.”

And while ‘The Nutcracker’ is a family affair, it’s also a growing experience that students won’t be able to participate in this year. “We had seniors this year who have done the show since they were little angels,” she said. “It’s rough.”

In a pre-pandemic world, the dancers would audition in the late summer. Every weekend they’d rehearse for the big show. “I think what the kids are missing is being together and building something together,” she said.

Although things might look a little different for the arts this season, the hope is that the traditions will continue on next year.

“I think ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a story that resonates with audiences; from a six or seven-year-old, who comes for the wonder of the story … to a teenager who sees the frustration of the characters, to adults who look at their own lives and hope,” Sanzel said. “I guess the bottom line is when people look at the story and see that Scrooge can change and be better, so can we.”

Local stores are encouraging shoppers to buy local this holiday season. Photo by Julianne Mosher

COVID-19 has impacted business globally, but for local mom-and-pop shops in villages across Long Island, they have been hit twice as hard. 

Between the impact of online retailers, plus big box stores, the pandemic has made it even more difficult to make a sale. 

When people shop small, the sales tax goes right back into the local economy. The community depends on these stores to make the village look great, while also supporting a neighbor. 

That’s why on Thanksgiving weekend, Small Business Saturday immediately followed the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, with hopes to bring revenue into the smaller stores. 

All weekend long in Port Jefferson village, local shop owners gleamed with hope that customers would continue their holiday shopping “small” and keeping these businesses afloat. 

Here’s what some small business owners had to say: 

Stacy Davidson, owner of Pattern Finders/Stacy’s Finds on East Main Street. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Pattern Finders/Stacy’s Finds

128 E. Main St., Port Jefferson

Stacy Davidson, owner of Pattern Finders/Stacy’s Finds on East Main Street, said she was pleasantly surprised on Thanksgiving weekend with the amount of people shopping around.

Unique gifts can be found at the shop, including antiques, furs, evening wear and accessories. 

Davidson said while the store is most known for her vintage jewelry, they also have a large selection of new pieces as well. She said that shopping at her store gives the customer a one-of-a-kind experience.

“All of the items in a store like mine you won’t find anywhere else ¬— especially online,” she said. 

At her store, Davidson said that all of her items are packaged nicely, “so all you have to do is hand them over with a smile — no gift wrap needed.”  

Davidson added that when people shop small, they’re supporting the community. 

“I’m very encouraged from the local community who came out to support us,” she said.

Joann Maguire, owner of Max & Millie. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Max & Millie

142 E. Main St., Port Jefferson

Joann Maguire, owner of Max & Millie, a woman’s clothing boutique nestled alongside East Main Street, said that her store gives customers a personalized shopping experience that cannot compete with a big box retailer.

“You should always shop small, not just during the holidays,” she said. 

The store is known for casual, chic and trendy clothes ranging in sizes 2 to 16, accessories and unique jewelry, including a small rack of pieces from former neighbor, Susan Rodgers Designs. 

Throughout the holiday weekend, Max & Millie sponsored several discounts from Friday to Sunday, completing the deal with their famous gift wrap. 

“We support our community,” she said. “We’ve always been there for you in terms of fundraisers, now it’s time for you to support us.”

Alana Miletti, owner of Fame & Rebel. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Fame and Rebel

415 E. Main St., Port Jefferson

Alana Miletti owns two locations of her store Fame and Rebel — one on Main Street in Patchogue, and the other on East Main in Port Jefferson village — so this past weekend was double the work as shoppers flocked in.

“Small businesses give back to the community more than a big box store does,” she said. “We employ so many community members and offer one-on-one personalization for each and every shopper.”

Throughout the holiday weekend, she offered a “shop more, save more” sale, which got dozens of people into her doors.  

Known for her on-trend clothing for women, the boutiques are constantly bringing in new arrivals that will fit any style every day.

“When you support a local business, you’re also supporting your town, city and neighborhood,” she said. “Small businesses pay sales taxes to the city and county the businesses are located in, and that tax money is used to support public schools, parks, roads and sidewalks, as well as fund public service workers. Imagine your town without any small businesses — pretty scary.”

Marianna Cucchi, owner of The Soap Box. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Soap Box

18 Chandler Square, Port Jefferson

Marianna Cucchi’s store, The Soap Box, has been in the village for 13 years. 

The shop, located in Chandler Square, houses hundreds of different gifts fit for everyone’s list. From homemade designer soaps, to bath and body products, to personal care, pajamas and other unique gifts, Cucchi said the last nine months have been hard and it’s going to take a while to recover.

“Shopping small is important because it supports our community and keeps our businesses open — especially after being closed over 70 days during the pandemic,” she said. 

Throughout the big shopping weekend, The Soap Box offered sales to shoppers stopping by. While browsing, they’d stop to admire the collection of rubber ducks in hats sitting politely by the front window. Cucchi also offers custom gift wrapping for all orders, a complete one-stop shop.

“We need to keep small town America,” she said. “This is your community and we want to see it thrive.”

Kandy Muñoz, owner of The Amazing Olive. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Amazing Olive

213 Main St., Port Jefferson

For the foodie on your shopping list, Kandy Muñoz said she can provide them with a unique and tasty gift this year. The Amazing Olive has two locations,  a newer location in Patchogue run by Muñoz’s son Steven, and her original Port Jefferson spot that she’s owned since 2012. 

Known for their vast collection of olive oils, balsamic vinegars, wine vinegars, salts and rubs, the store can accommodate any taste. 

But for this holiday season, Kandy Muñoz said personalized bottle labels and gift baskets are extremely popular this year. 

“When you shop small, you’re supporting a neighborhood family,” she said. 

Port Jeff to Get Sand to Replenish East Beach

Contractors recently finished reconstruction of the Mount Sinai Jetty, and now Suffolk County plans to dredge the inlet, giving all sand to Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

It’s finally happening.

Suffolk County now has all it needs to start dredging the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor between the two newly reconstructed jetties. It is the last piece of the puzzle before the decade-long, multimillion dollar project to repair the beleaguered inlet can be finalized.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) asked for a drum roll over Zoom at the online town meeting Nov. 19, saying she is finally able to exhale as the dredging should mean the finale to an extended saga. The harbor dredging will impact how well the Mount Sinai Harbor flushes, which is a big boon to the marine life inside, including the town’s oysters and clams at its mariculture facility.

“It’s hard to fight Mother Nature,” she said. “Frankly, I’m just happy that
it’s over.”

The town is permitting Suffolk County to complete the dredging with a total cost of $2 million. Because an increased amount of sand will be dredged than originally anticipated, the cost jumped by an additional $1 million compared to before.

“Sand is very valuable,” the councilwoman said.

The project is planned to go from December through January, according to Bonner.

Though the councilwoman said the town was originally set to receive half the dredged sand, a recent decision by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has mandated all the sand will be going to the Village of Port Jefferson to replenish its East Beach. Village Clerk Barbara Sakovich said that the amount of sand will be close to 80,000 cubic yards, provided by the county. In addition, the village is also set to receive hundreds of cubic yards a week from the Stony Brook dredging project, which has already started and is estimated to take five weeks.

Bonner expressed some disappointment that the dredging will not provide some additional sand on the marina side of the Cedar Beach peninsula.

“We’re resourceful, we’ll figure something out,” the councilwoman said, adding she wanted to thank state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) who managed to give the town a $3 million grant toward the jetty reconstruction. 

The Village of Port Jefferson has long said much of the sand that ended up on the bottom of the inlet was from East Beach, which slipped through the broken jetty. Satellite images from the 1990s until now show a dramatic decrease of beachfront lost to storms and erosion over time. 

“The dredging is great news,” PJ village Mayor Margot Garant said. “I can’t confirm it replaces all the sand [East Beach has lost], but it will certainly be a substantial renourishment.”

The jetty project was finally completed in May this year after several months of construction and many years of planning. For close to a decade, both the east and west jetty in Mount Sinai have been largely submerged at high tide, with both water and sand leaking through breaks in the stones and settling into the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor. Contractors were awarded an $8.3 million agreement in total to reconstruct both jetties.

Teenagers across the North Shore have been seen playing chicken with motorists by cycling into oncoming traffic, popping wheelies in the middle of the road and more. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County lawmakers are looking to tackle bicyclists who have been intimidating drivers across Long Island. 

There have been several different reports of reckless bicyclists putting themselves and others in danger on the road, which included a group of teenagers who harassed a Terryville gym over the summer. 

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she had a “terrifying” experience first-hand a few years ago. While traveling down Route 25A at night, a person wearing all black began popping wheelies toward her car in the middle of the street.

“I wasn’t going fast,” she said. “I chose to stop in the middle of the roadway. It was really scary, and whoever it was, was recklessly trying to frighten me.”

Back in September, county Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) introduced a “reckless biking” bill, which he advanced from Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) who passed away from cancer that same month.

After talking with other towns and villages in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, Sunderman said that although he represents the South Shore, the issue is widespread across the Island. 

“Other areas that we spoke to [with a bill in place] have already seen a decline in reckless biking,” he said. 

If Sunderman’s bill passes, it would prohibit cyclists from trick riding or weaving through traffic. Violators could also see their bikes impounded, receive $250 fines, or spend 15 days in jail. 

And on the North Shore, Hahn said she had been receiving complaints from other people from the area regarding similar concerns of packs of children doing similar things on Route 112, Nesconset Highway and Middle Country Road. 

“It’s dangerous,” she said. “The police aren’t able to do very much. They need a tool to confiscate the bike to individuals who do this.”

But along with concerned residents reaching out, Hahn said she was hearing criticism over Sunderman’s bill from bicyclist groups who use their bikes recreationally. 

“The intent is very good, and it is needed to curb this kind of [bad] activity,” she said. “The groups absolutely agree with the fact that anyone who rides in a pack and pops wheelies in traffic, that should happen. But because they’re experienced bicyclists, they see the real danger every day.”

Hahn said she is in full support of Sunderman’s reckless biking bill, but there were a few small pieces to his legislation that she wanted to suggest improvements. Her bill was laid out on Nov. 4. 

“Suffolk County is notorious for not being safe for bicyclists,” she said. “The purpose of my law is just to make drivers aware — give the cyclists the room, close your door when someone is passing you, people are not looking out.”

Her bill, which will go to public hearing on Dec. 1, will help drivers of cars and bikes be more educated of the dangers they both could face if they choose to act irresponsibly. A decision, or amending, of Sunderman’s bill will be decided on Dec. 15. 

Matthew Mazza and Jerry Varrichio flank their instructor Walter Vendura as they receive their black belts Nov. 21. Photo by Julianne Mosher

They love coming to their martial arts classes on Saturdays.

“Matt can’t wait to go to karate,” his father Jim Mazza said. “He’s disappointed when he can’t come or if there’s no class that week.”

Jerry Varrichio and Matthew Mazza sporting their new black belts. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Matt Mazza, of Smithtown, and Stony Brook resident Jerry Varrichio are both 19 and on the autism spectrum. They began their martial arts journey a decade ago at Long Island Traditional Tae Kwon Do under the leadership of grandmaster Walter Vendura, owner and head instructor of the martial arts studio. 

On Saturday, Nov. 21, both Mazza and Varrichio earned their first black belts. 

In a three-hour presentation, the two students presented their moves and skills to a small group of family and friends. They’ve been practicing two-to-three times a week, according to Vendura, since they were little kids.

Originally located in East Setauket, Vendura and his team chose to close their doors due to COVID-19 back in March, but that didn’t stop them from continuing the practice of martial arts elsewhere.

Matthew Mazza kicks a wood plant to earn his first-ever black belt. Photo by Julianne Mosher

During the summer, they began renting out space on the third floor of the Port Jefferson Village Center every Saturday. With masks on and limited in number, the students would continue to learn balance, find strength and break wood planks just as they did before. 

Vendura said he has made it his mission to welcome and train individuals of all abilities. Over his 50-year career practicing martial arts, he recently earned his own 8th degree black belt, while also training students at various levels of skills. The instructor has taught people who are blind and deaf, as well as those on the autism spectrum.

“We care about the growth of the student,” Vendura said. “We hope we can encourage them to continue the leadership within themselves, not only in martial arts but in life.”

Both families of the new black belt holders said they originally had trouble finding a studio that was accommodating and welcoming to students with disabilities. 

“They understand him,” Jim Mazza said. “It’s not just about the money — they care.”

Varrichio embraces his dad after receiving his belt. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Kathleen Mazza, Matt’s mother, added that the Tae Kwon Do studio was able to reach her son on an entirely different level. 

“They have a unique skill that no one else has,” she said. “They have knowledge, patience and understanding about people on the autism spectrum.”

Josephine Varrichio agreed, saying her son has grown so much during his time practicing martial arts. 

“Despite all the obstacles and his disability, we’re so proud of him and how far he has come,” she said. “No one here ever gave up on him.”

Mazza embraces his mom after receiving his belt. Photo by Julianne Mosher

And that hard work paid off. With the accomplishment of receiving their first-ever black belts, the two had fun all the way. 

“Breaking the board was my favorite,” Matt Mazza said. “I like sidekicks and I like coming to karate.”

by -
0 743
James Robitsek, and Setauket Patriot supporters, rally outside Village Hall in Port Jefferson. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Right wing Facebook group Setauket Patriots rallied outside Village Hall in Port Jefferson Tuesday night to protest what they claim is a violation of their rights, though officials say they are following the law.

On Sept. 12, the patriots group marched from the Port Jefferson train station down Main Street to gather for a 9/11 memorial across from Village Hall, though they lacked a permit for the march. Earlier in the summer the group hosted a permitted car parade for the Fourth of July following a Black Lives Matter march down main street held in June.

Following the June and July events, the Village of Port Jefferson issued an executive order signed on July 6 by Mayor Margot Garant effectively stopping the village from signing any new permits for marches or protests due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Garant had said it was in response to how many people the events were bringing, and not maintaining social distancing while doing so. The village has not granted a parade permit to any group since the moratorium was enacted.

Setauket Patriots organizer James Robitsek said he received a summons with a $1,400 constable fee and $2,800 fine 30 days after their 9/11 event.

“Because it was 9/11, it’s sacred to us,” Robitsek said. “I personally lost friends in 9/11.”

In previous events, the group that regularly supports President Donald Trump (R) on Facebook was relatively low-key in support of the president. Since then, the group has held multiple car parades down Main Street without a village permit which were explicitly pro-Trump. Such events did draw a few confrontations between counterprotesters and caravan-goers in Setauket. Some comments by leaders of these rallies have specifically mentioned Mayor Margot Garant. (To read about those mentions, click here. To read about the last Setauket Patriots caravan, click here.)

On Nov. 24, the night of their court date at village hall, members and supporters of the patriots protested with flags and music across the street from Village Hall, while in court, Robitsek asked for a full dismissal.

“It’s a violation of our civil rights,” he said. “They can’t just pick and choose who they give permits to, and that’s basically what they’ve done.”

Only 10 people were allowed in the court hearing, where Robitsek, represented by Lindenhurst-based attorney Vincent Grande III, rejected the offer of the fine and plead not guilty.

“The courts offer was to plead guilty with a conditional discharge, and to not hold any future events in Port Jeff village,” Robitsek said. “I’m looking for a dismal because I won’t be able to hold any more events in the village and I don’t want that.”

Deputy Village Attorney Rich Harris said that while Robitsek argued that other events were able to be held, like Black Lives Matter protests, the summons was simply for the one event hosted in September.
“It’s not about any about any other events,” he said. “It’s just about the Sept. 12 march.”

Robitsek said he plans on holding a 9/11 parade every year.

Grande will be filing motions by January, and Robitsek said the next court hearing should be sometime in February or March.

This article was amended to add links to previous caravans hosted by the Setauket Patriots.

by -
0 323
From left: Suffolk Chamber Alliance Co-chairs Bob Fonti and Gina Coletti, Discover LI President and CEO Kristen Jarnagin, Greater Port Jeff Chamber Executive Director Barbara Ransome, VP of Community Development for People’s United Bank Elizabeth Custodio and artist Kara Hoblin in front of the new artwork in Port Jeff. Photo by Kyle Barr

Business advocates are hoping that local businesses in Port Jefferson can rise above the challenges of the day — on wings if necessary.

A new interactive mural was painted by a North Fork artist over the past week displaying two bird wings in the alleyway between Salsa Salsa and Chris Silver Jewelry. Each wing displays a host of flora, fauna and landmarks of the eastern part of Long Island. Residents and visitors are being encouraged to stand between the two wings to take pictures or selfies underneath the colorful feathers.

Greenport-based artist Kara Hoblin said her piece evolved over the course of painting to represent the multitude of things that make the East End unique. There is everything from monarch butterflies, who make a stop on Long Island during their migration, to the North Fork’s pumpkins in the fall to the everpresent deer. 

The mural is part of Discover Long Island and the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers’ Shop Small Long Island campaign trying to encourage residents to shop small and shop local this holiday season despite the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kristen Jarnagin, the president and CEO of Discover Long Island, said they are doing “everything we can to help our small businesses and downtowns.” 

Creating local art that can be utilized by social media campaigns and bring traffic downtowns is just one initiative of several, Jarnagin said. They are also emphasizing residents can use tools such as the Suffolk County Alliance of Chamber’s MyChamber App and Discover Long Island’s Downtown Deals Travel Pass app to allow shoppers to explore businesses within Long Island’s downtowns while also redeeming savings at their favorite shops. Discover LI is also pushing its own Long Island TV that airs every week on where to go and what to see on Long Island.

That message, coming in right before Small Business Saturday Nov. 28, has become especially important now, as the positive rate in Suffolk County rises past 4% in some areas, and all are looking to see if Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) implements any new restrictions or business shutdowns.

Co-Chairs of the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers Bob Fonti and Gina Coletti said that they see these wings flying and they “want local businesses to soar as well.”

Small businesses have had more than a rough few months since the start of the pandemic. The murals, Fonti said, help make places like Port Jeff a destination. 

“It’s important that we as an alliance of chambers promote our downtowns,” Fonti said. “The financial tsunami, that we don’t know where that’s going to go, we want to drive 10 cars ahead of that, or hopefully ride above that wave.”

The new mural is just one of a host of public art the local chamber and Business Improvement District have been adding to the village over the past several months. Barbara Ransome, the executive director of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said “it’s an added attraction, for sure.”

“It’s visually appealing, and it’s safe,” she said. “Those combinations lend itself to hopefully people coming to see them.”

Ransome also thanked the landowner Dominick Parillo, who not only gave his blessing for the project but had people come in to whitewash the wall in preparation for the mural.

The original mural crafted for the village by Port Jeff artists Linda Menda-Alfin and Jennifer Hannaford was of a fish tank-type scene on an electrical box behind Chase Bank.  

The chamber had requested $1,000 in seed money from the BID back in January for the initial mural projects. Seeing the positive response, the chamber received an additional $2,000 to create even more murals on public infrastructure around the village. 

In addition to the one described before, Ransome said the village will have five electrical boxes featuring artwork. The chamber is planning another mural of a sea turtle and baby sea turtles on the alleyway wall between Chase Bank and Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices.

Another mural sponsored by Discover LI is being crafted for Long Beach in Nassau County, which new art will showcase the sites and other landmarks of western Long Island.

by -
0 411
Conifer’s revised design plans for the Port Jefferson Crossing apartment complex were approved Sept. 17 after multiple design changes over the past several months. Photo from planning board meeting

The Village of Port Jefferson has set a number to what an upcoming apartment complex project is worth for recreational land.

Officials voted to set the recreational parkland fee for Port Jefferson Crossing at $1,500 per unit at 45 units for a total of $67,500. Village officials said they are setting aside the funds specifically for developing Upper Port even further.

Mayor Margot Garant said they would be putting those funds in a special account to be used for revitalizing the up-the-hill portions of the village, which has been a largely blighted area for several years. All trustees agreed those funds should be used to develop uptown. Vice Mayor Stan Loucks suggested it could be for new recreational space in the Highland area of the village.

The project currently has plans for three floors, with the first floor being 3,200 square feet of retail and the next two containing 37 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments. The front part of the project will take up 112 lineal feet of frontage on Main Street.

Village Attorney Brian Egan said Conifer, the company behind Port Jefferson Crossing, has sent a letter to the effect of making some kind of donation to the village equivalent to the fee, but as of right now, the money is already in the village’s hands.

Alison LaPointe, special village attorney to the Building and Planning Department, previously told TBR News Media the payment in lieu of parking fee for the C-2 district, where Crossing resides, has been set at $4,000 per space via a 2018 resolution.

Parkland fees are set by the board of trustees on a case-by-case basis. The planning board has to approve the fee.

Conifer representatives have previously told the village planning board they were requesting officials consider renovated sidewalks and other amenities in place of the parkland fee. Officials have previously granted another The Shipyard, an apartment complex in downtown Port Jeff, a reduced parkland fee because of patio space and other open amenities included in the complex, though it was later confirmed the space was inaccessible to the public. The village changed its code in September of last year to excise rooftop decks, patios and other common areas not accessible to the general public from being considered for reduced or eliminated parkland fee.

Village Trustee Bruce Miller, who opposed The Shipyard’s reduced fee in 2018, said he hoped the village wasn’t going down the same road again. Garant agreed, saying “that’s why we’re here.”

Port Jefferson Crossing has already received an agreement with the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency for an estimated $5.2 million mortgage tax exemption for help in demolishing the current building and a $66,236 Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement starting in 2023-24. They join many of the other new apartment developments that have received PILOT agreements, including The Brookport and the Overbay Apartments developments. 

IDA documents also show they anticipate 1.5 employees will be needed at the new site, though that doesn’t include what businesses may take up space on the first floor facing the street.

Garant also said at the Nov. 16 meeting she was meeting with representatives of the Long Island Rail Road about, among other things, potentially making the parking lot metered. This would allow a revitalized upper port to be used during times in the evening much less trafficked by commuters for people to visit any businesses.

In addition, the village has to work with the LIRR on designing Station Street, which will be located just south of Conifer’s project. 

Another apartment development by the Gitto Group is looking to start up at the corner of Main Street and North Country Road, where the PJ Lobster House currently stands.

by -
0 411
PJ village meeting videos are available for 24 hours after their livestreamed. Image caputred from YouTube

Meeting videos available online from the Village of Port Jefferson are being taken down after 24 hours. Though as the village points to the lack of any law that mandates a government or agency keep recordings up for any length of time, some residents said it’s a matter of transparency as well as allowing more residents the opportunity to participate in village government.

Since the start of the pandemic, Port Jefferson has been livestreaming every board of trustee, planning, zoning and zoning board of appeals meeting live on YouTube to the village’s account. Those livestreamed videos were then left up as videos for the public to view.

Sometime within the last few months, those videos have started to be taken down after a 24-hour period. No public announcement was made that past videos would no longer be available.

Officials said the point of them using YouTube is not to set up a permanent library of meetings, adding the meeting minutes remain the official documentation of prior meetings.

The village board of trustees hosts meetings every other Monday, where one takes place in the afternoon around 3:30 p.m., which does not allow public comment, and another meeting in the later evening around 7 p.m., which does allow public comment. During the pandemic, residents were able to ask questions to the board via a chat window on the YouTube page, via email or by being invited to the board’s Zoom meeting. Currently, meeting videos from the past few months still exist on the village’s YouTube channel in several different playlists, but all are currently set to private and are inaccessible by the public.

Before the pandemic, Port Jefferson did not record any meetings either live or for viewing after the fact. 

In comparison, the Town of Brookhaven allows people to view the bimonthly Zoom meetings and offer comments via email or through Zoom chat. Those Zoom meetings are posted to YouTube where each can be
viewed indefinitely. 

New York State’s Open Meetings Law has changed due to the pandemic, eliminating the mandate that meetings need to be held in person and be available to the public. New open meeting guidelines do relay that an agency or authority “to the extent practicable and within available funds, streamed on such website in real time, and posted on such website within and for a reasonable time after the meeting.”

Village Attorney Brian Egan said neither Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) COVID-19 executive orders nor the state Public Officers Law require a village to keep a perpetual archive of meeting videos. 

“The YouTube videos were done to fulfill the requirement of the ‘real-time’ viewing requirement of the executive orders but were never intended to form a video meeting library,” Egan said via email. “Once the meeting time passed, the videos were removed shortly thereafter. The official record has been, and remains, the officially adopted meeting minutes.”

Egan added that once after the pandemic passes and the executive orders expire the village will look to return to in-person meetings and will no longer need to use YouTube.

Rebecca Kassay, the village’s most recently elected trustee, said she would like to see those videos become available again.

“While we have this temporary platform, why not utilize the benefit of increased accessibility?”  Kassay said in an email. “We’re proud of what we do for the community; I’d like for more folks to be able to tune in at their convenience and see how local government is working for them. It’s always impressive to hear just how much my fellow trustees and the mayor have to report on a very wide range of Port Jefferson community efforts, from safety issues to the [Port Jefferson] Country Club to environmental protection.” 

by -
0 232
The Port Jefferson school board voted Tuesday to start its 4-person in person learning schedule Jan. 11 next year. Photo from meeting video

In its Nov. 10 meeting, the Port Jefferson School District Board of Education decided to open up the middle and high schools for more in-person learning starting in January, though plans may be complicated by rising infection rates.

The board voted 4-3 against a plan to start rolling in students on a staggered, weekly basis Dec. 8. The board then voted 5-2 to have all students in grades six through 12 start back Jan. 11. Trustees Rene Tidwell and Ryan Walker both voted “no” on the plan.

Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said this would also mandate the installation of desk shields. The district already authorized the purchase of desk shields at $135,000. Those shields are expected sometime around the third week of November. In addition, ICT students will begin four-day instruction immediately.

In this plan, Mondays would remain a remote-learning day with office hours and asynchronous instruction. Tuesday through Friday would then become in-person for all students. Desks and desk shields would be sanitized at the end of each school day, and then on Mondays any lingering haze left from the sanitizer would be removed.

“We got a lot of parent feedback as to why 11th-graders should be in as it helps their college careers, why middle school students should be in — we recognize that all students benefit from in-person learning,” the superintendent said. “The how and the when is something we’re having a lot of discussion on.”

She said it would take from five to 10 days to install all desk shields in the two schools.

A survey of 513 parents in the district revealed that just over 88% said they would like to send their child to four days of instruction. Another 7%, or about 36 families, said they were using the full remote option and would continue that way.

In that same survey, 65% of parents said they would like to see students go to four days as soon as possible. While other families wished the district to start this plan in January or February, a little over 10 percent, or about 56 families, said they wished the school to continue with the hybrid model.

Almost 60% of parents surveyed want children to return all at once, while another 24% want kids phased in with smaller groups.

Students were similarly polled, and most, just over 67%, also wanted to be back in school four days a week, though only 42% said it should be as soon as possible.

While most school staff would like to see children back in school for more days, just a little over 50% of the 94 surveyed want to see students brought in with staggered groups.

A representative from the Port Jefferson Teachers’ Association also spoke at the meeting, asking the district to bring in experts from local hospitals when considering reopening, and mentioned the district would gain little if it brought back students after Thanksgiving, as it would only be a limited number of days before Christmas.

“Overwhelmingly, our staff want our kids back in the building — they want them back four days a week,” the superintendent said. “The biggest question becomes how and when.”

Tidwell expressed some concerns over how well students will be protected by the desk shields, noting that they do not necessarily stop all of the aerosolized virus. She said it’s likely to also see upticks in cases after the holidays, and the district should hold off until after December or after the holidays.

“We can’t ignore what’s happening in Suffolk County,” she said.

Currently, the infection rate in New York has breached 3%, higher than any other time it’s been in the past few months. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) has said the jump in infections may be because of Halloween, but state officials also blame restaurants that sell alcohol, gyms and home gatherings. New restrictions are already in place.

Walker said he trusts the administration to do what needs to be done, but the board would have to be conscientious before the decided date. He said he would like to see the school district go ahead with these plans.

“My position really hasn’t changed,” he said. “When we come up with a date, we look at the data immediately preceding that date to see if it’s safe. If we don’t think it’s safe, we’re not going to go ahead with it. What I worry about though, if we do decide on a date, if nothing changes from where it is currently … are we then going to push the pause button again and again and again? If you’re not secure in sending your kids in now, I don’t think possibly you’re ever going to be secure in bringing in your kids.”

Board vice president, Tracy Zamek, said the toll of keeping kids in this current model is doing harm.

“Our kids are not doing well, in my opinion,” she said. “If the school is ready and the numbers are OK, then we need to get the kids back in.”

Assistant superintendent, Christine Austen, said the schools’ social workers are working on reports for how students are currently doing.

Schmettan said other districts in the area have set dates and then pushed back those dates, and they could do the same thing.

“The really difficult part, we can set that date for whatever the date may be but infection rates, closures — things are going to change,” she said. “Regardless of whatever benchmark or milestone we shoot for, there is a possibility it is diverted.”