Funds are coming from both town and county for the construction of a new parking lot in Port Jeff, yet still the price tag could be high.
At its Oct. 2 meeting, the Suffolk County Legislature voted to grant Port Jefferson $200,000 in a jumpstart grant for the creation of a new parking lot on Barnum Avenue. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) joined village officials Oct. 10 to announce the new funds.
“This is a village that for some time has been leading in innovation and creativity and we’ve been there to support it,” Bellone said. “What this really is about is how do we continue to grow in a sustainable way.”
The new parking lot will be located on Barnum Avenue at the intersection between it and Caroline Avenue. The site is expected to include 44 new stalls, two of which are planned to be charging stations for electric vehicles, which would be a first for Port Jeff village.
“Importantly, this lot is very close to the newly renovated Rocketship Park, which brings down thousands on a daily basis,” Mayor Margot Garant said.
The site will have ingress and egress onto Caroline Avenue in two separate spots and will border the Joe Erland baseball field on its southwestern end. The 32,000-square-foot lot will also include two bioswales bordering the foot entrance onto Barnum Avenue to aid in flood mitigation. The bioswales will look like two dips in the ground with plantings overlaying them.
Nicole Christian, the Port Jeff grant writer, said the fact the project includes these green initiatives was one of the main reasons they got the grant.
Costs for the Barnum lot could cost approximately $900,000, the mayor said. The village will use its own funds to construct the lot, and the grant will reimburse the village up to the set amount.
“Because we need to do prevailing wage, it doubles the cost,” Garant said. “There’s no way around that.”
Other than the recently finished Texaco parking lot in Upper Port, this would be the first new piece of downtown parking infrastructure in more than a decade.
Parking has been an issue in Port Jeff for years. Several years ago, in 2015, the Town of Brookhaven had sold property to a local developer for retail and apartment space. However, because of a lack of parking for the structure, the town was all set to go forward on an agreement to grant around 30 parking spots from the town’s marina municipal lot near the harbor to the village, which had planned to reconstruct it with more plant fixings and solid boundaries. However, after a disagreement between officials and a resident in Port Jeff, a letter sent to the New York State attorney general by the Brookhaven town attorney provoked a response in December 2017 saying the land was parkland, though purposed for marina parking, and it would require consent from the New York State Legislature.
In the years following, officials tried to hash out some kind of agreement that would grant payment in lieu of parking (PILOP) for those 30 spots. Brian Egan, the village attorney, said talks became mired, with it finally requiring the village to put out a notice of claim before the town agreed to grant the PILOP. However, as another wrinkle to the issue, due to outflow of sediment from Mill Creek into Port Jefferson Harbor, which the town said the village was responsible for paying for dredging, the town only agreed to pay after subtracting the cost of dredging.
Finally, at the village’s Oct. 7 meeting, officials voted to accept a check for $125,800, an amount which subtracts the cost of dredging the outflow from the creek of $34,600.
Although the mayor said the money is nice, parking is much more expensive to build than the money they are granted from the town, and she would have rather had the marina spaces.
“That plus the jumpstart money, that’s half the Barnum lot,” she said.
The lot is expected to go out to bid within the next several months, with full construction to start no later than early spring, according to Garant.