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Richard Harris

Robert Neidig with William Harris at Hope House Ministries. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Port Jefferson Middle School student William Harris knew he wanted to help out his local community as part of his mitzvah project this month.

Harris — who turned 13 in September and was supposed to have his long-awaited bar mitzvah that month — had to postpone his ceremony and the festivities that come around it.

“Originally I was going to do a blood drive, because people needed donations for blood,” he said. “But I couldn’t do it with the pandemic.”

That’s when he decided to team up with his principal, Robert Neidig, to encourage his class-mates to donate food to the local nonprofit Hope House Ministries.  

“About a month ago, I made some flyers and I put them around the school,” William said. “We put it on the announcement every morning and people began bringing in food.”

Leza Di Bella, William’s mother, said he did this all by himself.

“He took the initiative,” she said. “Usually for these projects, parents are very involved. We were not at all.”

On Friday, June 11, he was joined at Hope House by his mother and father Richard, along with his school principal where he dropped off several dozen bags of food. Then after nearly nine months of waiting to celebrate this special day, his bar mitzvah was held at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook on Saturday.

“I’m just so proud, not only of Will, but the respect that he has earned from his classmates. They would bring a can here and there and, as you can see, it all adds up,” Neidig said. “It’s all going to such a good cause I couldn’t be prouder. It’s a big time in his life and I’m happy that I could be a part of it.”

William said he’s not done with his donations yet. 

“I feel like I did a good thing now,” he said.

Stock photo by Kyle Barr

Belle Terre residents came out Tuesday to vote on two trustee positions, where Richard Harris beat incumbent Dr. Caroline Engelhardt.

According to village clerk Joanne Raso, 225 ballots were cast on June 15. Harris, along with incumbent Dr. Richard Musto, on the Citizens Party platform, took the two titles home: Harris with 136 votes and Musto with 159; Engelhardt received 112 votes

Musto has been a resident of Belle Terre for over 30 years. Now ready for his third term, he previously told TBR News Media he brings 70-plus years of life experience to the table. “I have a strong interest in the village,” he said. “I want to keep it going — I enjoy living here.”

Harris had said he previously never wanted to work in politics, but saw that change was needed in Belle Terre. He said he plans on using his 20 years of professional experience to make the village better.

“I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the village where I live,” he said. 

After moving to Belle Terre with his wife seven years ago, “We could not think of a better place to raise our family,” he said. He is the father of two school-age boys.

Photo from Richard Harris

Harris said he  has served as counsel to town and village boards, planning and zoning boards, conservation boards, public safety commissions, code enforcement and emergency management departments and agencies conducting internal affairs. Currently, he serves as Port Jefferson deputy village attorney and Belle Terre special prosecutor. 

Since moving to Belle Terre, he has served on the traffic safety committee, where he recommended traffic calming measures on Cliff Road, helped build a second kayak rack at Knapp Beach and served on the recently reconvened marina committee. 

After the announcement of his win, Harris said he is honored that his neighbors in Belle Terre elected him as their trustee.

“The role of a trustee in a small village is to ensure that quality of life issues are constantly monitored and addressed efficiently,” he said. “With this in mind, and as I promised during my candidacy, I will be getting to work immediately with the rest of the board to address traffic safety issues, environmental concerns and beach improvements, as well as other pending matters.”

Harris wanted to thank everyone who gave him the chance to continue contributing to the village.

“I’d also like to publicly acknowledge and thank Dr. Caroline Engelhardt for her service to the community, both as a trustee and, even more importantly, as a doctor on the frontlines,” he said. “Her contributions and concern for all of us cannot be overstated.”

Stock photo by Kyle Barr

On Tuesday, June 15, Village of Belle Terre residents can vote in the election for two trustee positions. 

This year’s candidates are incumbent Richard Musto on the Citizens Party ballot, with newcomer Richard Harris. Incumbent Caroline Engelhardt is on the Residents Party ballot.

Musto has been a resident of Belle Terre for over 30 years. Running for his third term, Musto said he brings 70-plus years of life experience to the table. 

“I have a strong interest in the village,” he said. “I want to keep it going — I enjoy living here.”

Before his retirement, he spent two years of service in the Navy, with one year of sea duty and a second year at the Naval Air Station in San Diego, with a rank of lieutenant commander.  

After his residency at Downstate Medical Center, he joined a urology group in Port Jefferson in 1977 and remained there until 2014. 

Since then, he has been president of the medical staff at St. Charles Hospital and Peconic Bay Medical Center. Musto has been chief of urology at Mather Hospital, and a member of the board of trustees at Peconic Bay Medical Center for the last 15 years.

Richard Harris is running for his first term as trustee and said he can bring 20 years of professional experience. 

“I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the village where I live,” he said. 

After moving to Belle Terre with his wife seven years ago, “We could not think of a better place to raise our family,” he said. He is the father of two school-aged boys.

Photo from Richard Harris

Harris said he  has served as counsel to town and village boards, planning and zoning boards, conservation boards, public safety commissions, code enforcement and emergency management departments and agencies conducting internal affairs. Currently, he serves as Port Jefferson deputy village attorney and Belle Terre special prosecutor. 

Since moving to Belle Terre, he has served on the traffic safety committee, where he recommended traffic calming measures on Cliff Road, helped build a second kayak rack at Knapp Beach and served on the recently reconvened Marina Committee. If elected, he has a list of goals he plans to accomplish.

“I know how to make government work for all residents,” he said. “I will use my expertise and my municipal and law enforcement contacts to improve traffic safety in the village, to address erosion and water runoff issues, add amenities to our village beaches, and examine options to fund and build a village marina.”

Caroline Engelhardt has lived in her home in Belle Terre for the last 23 years. After from New York College of Osteopathic Medical School in 1988, she did her first two years of residency in anesthesiology at Beth Israel Medical Center/Mt. Sinai in New York City, followed by a third year at the University Medical Center of Pittsburgh and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. After residency, she became a partner with Long Island Anesthesia Physicians in Port Jefferson and has been a senior partner for over 25 years serving patients at St. Charles Hospital, Mather Hospital, Peconic Bay Medical Center and Mercy Hospital. 

Engelhardt has served on several boards and volunteered with Doctors Without Borders. She is a teaching faculty member at Northwell/Hofstra Medical School.

Engelhardt did not respond to TBR News prior to press time. 

Residents can vote for two of these three candidates from 12 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Community Center in Belle Terre. 

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Richared Harris and Kathianne Snaden join Joey Zangrillo in his new outdoor dining spot located behind his restaurant, Joey Z’s. Photo by Julianne Mosher

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Long Island in March of last year, restaurants had to shut their doors and come up with creative ways to survive.

At first, they utilized contactless, curbside pickup, and then as the summer approached, the warm weather opened up impromptu outdoor dining.

“It was a scary time,” Village of Port Jefferson trustee Kathianne Snaden said. “But the attitude with outdoor dining was whatever they need, we will make it work within reason and safety.”

Restaurants had to make use of whatever outdoor space they had — Joey Z’s, for example, be-ing just two tables on the busy sidewalk in front of its location. Others used their back parking lots, taking up space from visitors and their cars.

Snaden said they were able to relax their already-in-place outdoor dining codes to help the businesses stay open. 

“Even though it was hurriedly done, we still did everything to the standards with the fire marshal and the attorney that visited every site,” Snaden added. “We were very careful with that stuff. Our goal was for the businesses to continue doing business and stay open.”

Now that this has become the new normal, the village knew they had to prepare early for the busy season, using what they learned last year to make outdoor dining even better.

Deputy village attorney Richard Harris and Snaden began researching different accommodations the village could make. 

“We came up with a waiver form,” Harris said, “And whenever people came in for an application, for the most part we said ‘yes.’”

Using the good and the bad from what they learned early on in the pandemic, Harris and Snaden began measuring different spots that could accommodate outdoor tables, again joined by the fire marshal to make sure everything was safe, and ADA compliant. 

“We were able to take more time in identifying locations,” Snaden said, adding that this year the village again waived the $100 table fee restaurants typically need to pay for outdoor dining. 

And this year, the village is continuing to assist the restaurants which could use the extra space.

Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that indoor dining could seat at 75% capacity, but some restaurants Down Port are small spaces that still cannot make a profit without a full house. 

So, the outdoor dining helps.

Joey Z’s, located at 217 Main St., is now utilizing a small park behind his restaurant, at the bottom of the staircase by Toast Coffeehouse.

Joey Zangrillo, owner of the Greek and Italian spot, said he is grateful for the tables located within the park because he knows it’ll help his business this summer. 

“This whole place, the way it looks right now, looks perfect to me,” he said. 

And the tables will not interfere with the rest of the park, Snaden said, because benches are still available for people to take a break. 

“Everybody that requested a certain area or type of outdoor dining, they were not denied,” she added. “We worked within our parameters and what the code allows, but nobody was denied what they asked for.”

While many restaurants are beginning to utilize the outdoor dining now that spring is here, Harris said applications are still rolling in, and have been since early March. 

“If you let us know what you want, we’ll take a look at the permit and make it work for you,” he said. “We want the businesses to survive — that’s our job.”

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Residents were concerned to see vape and hookah merch being set up in an empty store in Chandler Square, but both the village and shop owner say the new location will focus on tobacco product. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Questions over Port Jeff’s handling of hookah and vape products has become inflamed once again, though the outcome might just be the loss of one vape shop and the opening of a new smoke store.

Locals have noticed smoke and hookah products moving into a space in Chandler Square next to where The Soap Box resides. Officials said Sanjay Bakshi, the owner of Hookah City, which was located on Main Street, had planned to move from its space there to that new spot but, upon learning of the move, village officials quickly moved in to explain current code requirements.

Village trustee Kathianne Snaden said the village was alerted after residents spotted vaping paraphernalia in the front window. Deputy village attorney, Richard Harris, spoke to owner and is working on getting the issue resolved.

Village code restricts any new vaping stores from opening up in anything but light industrial zoning. All new vape shops or hookah parlors must also be granted a special-use permit by the board of trustees. 

Snaden said Bakshi, has agreed to comply with village code and is continuing his work opening in the new space, though now as a smoke shop selling cigars, pipes, tobacco and other products. Harris said the owner understands the code and has moved about 90% of all the vape or hookah-type products from the premises. The Port Jeff fire marshal, Ryan Klimar, has also been to the location and has recommended a few minor changes to the sprinklers and fire extinguisher placements.

“He understands very clearly what he needs to do,” Harris said.

Bakshi said the owner of the previous location did not renew his Main Street lease, requiring the move. The new space, he said, is going to be part smoke shop, part “convenience store” that sells candies and soda. He is getting rid of the name Hookah City and is just going with Smoke Shop, displayed in small letters on the front window.

Bakshi confirmed he does not plan to display any smoking product in the window and that he doesn’t plan to sell any kind of electronic tobacco products like the old vapes and hookahs.

Before the move Hookah City had been able to continue despite the code change, having been grandfathered in under old requirements. In 2019, when the shop was cited by Suffolk County police for allegedly selling a vape product to a minor, village trustees openly talked about what could be done to the shop but village attorney, Brian Egan, said that officials could not impact a business in any major way unless the code was violated. 

In the past, Port Jeff constables have sent Suffolk police details of what they said were examples of the store allegedly selling to minors, according to past interviews with Fred Leute, code enforcement chief.

Though more and more smoke and vape shops have reported an incredible decline in sales since New York State officially banned the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes back in May, and that’s in addition to the wider economic impact of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Schools in recent years have complained about the number of vape products getting into minors’ hands, despite age restrictions. Though the science is not conclusive, studies have shown the harmful and addictive nature of nicotine-based products. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration guidelines are still evolving, but the FDA considers vaping medically unsafe for young people, pregnant women and adult smokers who are not using it to quit the habit.

Still, for village officials like Snaden, seeing the last remaining vape shop go is a clear victory for the local community. 

“Anything keeping vape products out of the hands of our children is better for our schools, parents and kids,” she said.