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St. James

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A look inside the St. James General Store. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Residents’ outcry over Suffolk County’s shortchanging of St. James General Store was met with an immediate reaction.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) made an internal budget transfer Jan. 23 to reallocate $100,000 from the Parks Department’s line for staffing to the funds for operation of St. James General Store, making good on his office’s promise to make the historic landmark whole.

“The hotel/motel tax came in better than we expected,” Eric Naughton, Suffolk’s budget director said. “We felt we could move $100,000 without impacting our operations.”

Alarm swept through the St. James community, residents and the store’s supporters last week after it was brought to light that the iconic store had its funding reduced by nearly 80 percent under the county’s adopted 2019 operating budget. Backers of the shop were concerned about its ability to keep its shelves stocked and continue operations.

“This is something that is near and dear to all of our hearts,” said Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James. “It’s a landmark that was the original post office of St. James. It’s such a huge part of our town that people come from all over to come to this place.”

Bellone only set aside $29,129 for the general store to purchase items for resale in 2019, down from a 2018 budget of $125,000. These funds were expected to stock the shelves of both the store and the Big Duck gift shop in Flanders, which is overseen by the same county staff. Naughton admitted the lowered funds would have only been sufficient through mid- to late spring.

Funding for the St. James General Store is taken from the proceeds of Suffolk’s hotel/motel tax, according to Naughton, which places a 3 percent occupancy tax on individuals renting rooms or lodging within the county that took effect in 2014.

Naughton said part of the reason the internal transfer was done is that the county executive did not want to delay funding to St. James General Store, which generally turns a profit for the county. Suffolk Legislature is expected to review and vote on allocation of the 2018 hotel/motel at its Feb. 13 general meeting for various organizations. To wait till then would have left St. James community wondering about the future fate of the landmark for an additional three weeks.

A look inside the St. James General Store. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The St. James General Store is one of the longest continuously operating stores in the country, selling homemade goods and treats to visitors since 1857. Now, there is uncertainty and fear that its future is in danger.

Suffolk County, which operates the shop as a historic site under the Parks Department, has reduced its funding of the landmark by nearly 80 percent under the county’s adopted 2019 operating budget. St. James residents and supporters of the general store are concerned about its ability to keep its shelves stocked and continue operations.

“It’s a landmark that was the original post office of St. James. It’s such a huge part of our town that people come from all over to come to this place.”

— Kerry Maher-Weisse

“This is something that is near and dear to all of our hearts,” said Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James. “It’s a landmark that was the original post office of St. James. It’s such a huge part of our town that people come from all over to come to this place.”

Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone (D) only set aside $29,129 for the general store to purchase items for resale, down from a 2018 budget of $125,000. These funds are expected to stock the shelves of both the store and the Big Duck gift shop in Flanders, which is overseen by the same county staff.

“In 2018, the county had extra money left over from prior years and was able to appropriate additional funds to parks [including the stores],” Eric Naughton, the county’s budget director, said.

Despite the slashing of the stores budget, Suffolk’s lawmakers generally agree the St. James and Big Duck shops are moneymakers for the county. The stores turned over a profit of approximately $400,000 in 2018, which was returned to Suffolk’s general fund.

“As it does make money, it is in our best interest to increase its funding,” Naughton said.

As it does make money, it is in our best interest to increase its funding.”

— Eric Naughton

St. James resident Scott Posner, president of neighboring Deepwells Farm Historical Society, is familiar firsthand with the county’s fiscal issues. Roughly 14 years ago, the county walked away from running Deepwells for “budgetary reasons,” and he was part of a group there to continue to ensure the site’s operations. Posner said he’s ready to advocate for the general store.

“What we’re doing right now is making sure the county corrects its funding,” he said. “What we really need to do is lean on the county.”

Funding for the St. James General Store is taken from the proceeds of Suffolk’s hotel/motel tax, according to Naughton, which places a 3 percent occupancy tax on individuals renting rooms or lodging within the county. The budget director said once the tax is collected from businesses for last year and he’s able to reconcile the 2018 proceeds, there should be additional funding available to allocate to St. James General Store, Big Duck gift shop and the parks.

“I think we will be able to return it to the same level of funding,” Naughton said.

It is a living part of the past. It would be a shame to see it defunded.”

— Bev Tyler

Any additional funding recommended by the Suffolk executive’s office would need to go before the county Legislature for a vote and its approval before being appropriated. In the meanwhile, the county and the general store’s supporters agree the store’s limited budget will be enough to get it through the spring.

“The St. James General Store is one of the treasures of Suffolk County,” Bev Tyler, Three Village Historical Society historian said. “It is a living part of the past. It would be a shame to see it defunded.”

County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), whose district covers St. James, said he will advocate for the store: “The oldest store in the country has survived the hurricanes, suburban sprawl, the Civil War and the Great Depression,” but not the county’s mismanagement.

Editor’s Note: The last name of Bev Tyler, Three Village Historical Society historian, was changed to its proper spelling. 

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

By David Luces

The Town of Smithtown has received nearly $100,000 in grant funding it will use for critical infrastructural projects to improve the area’s water quality and revitalize downtown business districts.

Smithtown officials received notice at the end of December 2018 it received $97,375 from the Regional Economic Development Council of Long Island. The majority of the funding will be used for a stormwater management plan to protect Stony Brook Harbor and approximately one quarter will be used to further the town’s revitalization plans for St. James.

“”We’re excited to begin implementing these studies and we couldn’t be more grateful for the many ways this funding will benefit our residents.”

— Ed Wehrheim

The bulk of the grant,  $72,375, will be used to undertake a stormwater management feasibility study for the town-owned Cordwood Park off Harbor Road in Smithtown. Working together with the villages of Head of the Harbor and Nissequogue, the town looks to continue the preservation of the water quality in Stony Brook Harbor by creating and then implementing new stormwater and erosion control plans.   

Russell Barnett, the town’s environmental protection director, said stormwater runoff has always been a concern because of the high likelihood of contaminants in the water.

“Stormwater carries everything with it,” he said. “It’s important to protect the quality of water in the harbor.”

Barnett said Stony Brook Harbor is the cleanest harbor on the North Shore of Long Island and many people use it for boating, fishing and bird watching. As part of the study, he hopes to capture stormwater for testing, accurately map stormwater routes, improve drainage infrastructure and look to protect the natural river bed from further erosion.   

“This has been an issue for quite some time,” Barnett said. “We have the funds now to study the situation and hopefully fix the problem.”

This is an opportunity for residents to have voices heard on how they would want their communities to look like in the future.”

— Nicole Garguilo

The town also received a $25,000 grant for its St. James Visioning Study, whose aim is to economically and visually revitalize the business district and restore its place as a cultural and social hub of the community.

“We’re excited to begin implementing these studies and we couldn’t be more grateful for the many ways this funding will benefit our residents,” Supervisor Edward Wehrheim (R) said in a press release.

In conjunction with the visioning study, the town is making plans for community outreach that include input on the modernizing of town and hamlet zoning maps. The future plans intend to shape the physical, social, environmental and economic future of these communities.

Town spokesperson Nicole Garguilo said the Smithtown council members are looking for help from the community.

“This is an opportunity for residents to have voices heard on how they would want their communities to look like in the future,” Garguilo said. “This is their chance to have the ultimate say.”

In addition to these projects, the town hopes to organize community engagement meetings this spring where residents will be encouraged to voice their opinions on various topics including changing zoning, modernizing master plans for each hamlet and future town development.

St. James resident Scott Posner gives out books at St. James Elementary School. Photo by Donna Deedy

By Donna Deedy

On a gray, mid-December day, Scott Posner wheeled four cardboard boxes into the gymnasium at St. James Elementary School, just as he has done annually for the last 13 years.

“Do you know what a hero is?” he said to the 106 third-graders sitting attentively on the gym floor.  “It’s someone who makes a difference.” 

Posner said the Rotary International’s one million members assist people in need.  Some of the world’s neediest people, he added, often ask for schools. He then handed out to each child a copy of the dictionaries stacked inside his boxes, a gift from the Rotary Club of Smithtown. Feeling fortunate and inspired, the children filed back to class after leafing through their new book.

Scott’s shown me how important it is to immerse yourself in giving back.” 

— David Dircks

Posner, of St. James, is a financial planner. For the last 20 years, he’s worked for Edward Jones in its St. James office. The company encourages its advisers to be active community members. For Posner, that altruism comes naturally.

Posner founded and currently serves as president of the Deepwells Farm Historical Society.  He’s also president of the St. James Chamber of Commerce and past president of the Rotary Club of Smithtown. Each year, he prepares and promotes events such as parades, street fairs, outdoor concerts, a haunted house, Christmas parties and a winter gala. He also raises funds for Angela’s House, a Hauppauge-based charity that provides assistance to medically fragile and terminally ill children and their families.

More than a decade ago, Deepwells Farm, a county-owned historic property on North Country Road in St. James, fell into disrepair. Posner took action.

“The place was left to rot, but Scott formed a foundation to save the structure,” said Howard Essenfeld, treasurer for Deepwells Farm Historical Society. The site serves as an important hub for community events.

For the last 11 years, acoustic musicians have performed for a live audience in the farm’s parlor. The recorded live broadcasts ultimately became the  No. 1 acoustic music podcast on iTunes.

I don’t mind fighting to get money for St. James and Deepwells, but I find myself working harder knowing that someone like Scott is keeping an eye on things”

— Rob Trotta

“Scott’s shown me how important it is to immerse yourself in giving back,” said David Dircks, the program producer. He credits Posner for getting permission from county officials to use the site as a music venue. 

“I don’t mind fighting to get money for St. James and Deepwells, but I find myself working harder knowing that someone like Scott is keeping an eye on things,” said Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga).

An East Northport native, Posner moved to St. James in 1995 with his wife, Debby Fiorella Posner.  She attended the same elementary school where he now delivers dictionaries to third-graders. They have two daughters: Rebecca, a junior at SUNY Geneseo, and Julianna, a senior at Smithtown East High School.

After his wife was diagnosed and treated for cancer, Posner pedaled 532 miles from Manhattan to Niagara Falls with four comrades to raise $18,225 for the Roswell Park Cancer Center. 

“I could not be more thankful for the incredible leaps in cancer treatment that directly benefited us,” he stated in a 2018 Facebook post. “Many people’s past contributions made those breakthroughs possible. Now it’s our time to fund research for the next generation of warriors that will face the challenge of cancer.”

His wife, Posner said, may participate in the seven-day Empire State Ride next summer.

“This is what Scott does,” said Laura Endres, president of the Rotary Club of Smithtown, a sponsor for Posner’s ride. “He’s just a wonderful human being.”

Town moves forward with design, engineering for Lake Avenue despite uncertainty of future site hookup

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

Town of Smithtown officials aren’t willing to risk wasting any time, so they are forging ahead with plans to sewer downtown St. James.

Smithtown town board voted unanimously Dec. 11 to issue a request for proposals for engineers to plan and design a sewer system for the Lake Avenue Business District this coming January. Three days later, the town hired Bohemia-based engineering firm P.W. Grosser Consulting to prepare the documents needed to do so.

We’re on a tight leash with the engineering for sewer projects to be ready to go in summer 2019.”

— Ed Wehrheim

“We’re on a tight leash with the engineering for sewer projects to be ready to go in summer 2019,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “If we waited another two weeks, we’d be pushing back our timeline.”

Town officials are hoping to have the plans and funding necessary to sewer Lake Avenue’s business district by next summer, which the $2.4 million replacement of St. James’ aging water mains is slated for, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. Replacement of the business district’s water mains has already been delayed once by the town with a desire to complete both infrastructural projects at the same time while the roads are ripped up.

“We are going to sewer because we are opening the ground already,” Garguilo said. “We don’t want to put residents through the inconvenience twice.”

Smithtown officials will need to have these design and engineering plans in hand and submitted, as well as other necessary documentation, in order to receive the $3.9 million grant from the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a nonspecific discretionary pot of funding for municipal assistance, announced by New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in October.

“We don’t want to put residents through the inconvenience twice.”

— Nicole Garguilo

The town does not have any official agreement with developer Gyrodyne LLC, according to Garguilo, to access the sewage treatment facility it has proposed building as part of its plans for the Flowerfield property in St. James. The developer has proposed plans to construct a 150-room hotel with a restaurant and day spa, two medical office buildings and a 220-unit assisted living complex. It is currently completing the final environmental review to present to the town’s planning board for approval.

“If we need to, we’ll find another sewer plant, hook into Kings Park or another pump station,” Garguilo said.

Many St. James business people and civic leaders have stated while they are excited by the prospect of sewers, they were also aware that construction, both the tearing and replacing of sidewalks and asphalt, could disrupt existing businesses. Wehrheim said the town could plan to doing the work in sections, separated by the connecting streets all the way down Lake Avenue.

“It’s going to be a huge disturbance, but we’re prepared for that,” the supervisor said.

Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James, previously stated the civic group believes the community will benefit more from construction.

Town of Smithtown officials and St. James veterans give their respects at the rededication of the Vietnam War memorial Nov. 21, 2018. File Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

On Thanksgiving eve, as many prepared for the holiday fest, Town of Smithtown officials
and St. James community members came together to give thanks to a set of veterans who often feel forgotten.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) led the rededication and blessing of the Vietnam War memorial at St. James train station Nov. 21. The town’s parks department employees have recently completed cleaning up, adding features to and landscaping the Sherwood Brothers monument after its condition was brought up by Councilman Tom Lohmann (R).

Ed Springer, commander of American Legion Sherwood Brothers Post 1244 of St. James, speaks at the Nov. 21 ceremony. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“We’re very appreciative for what Tom and the town did for us here, it will be remembered for a long time to come,” said Ed Springer, commander of the American Legion Sherwood Brothers Post 1152 in St. James.

The supervisor said the town engaged in conversation with the Long Island Rail Road over making improvements at the railroad station, like improving the landscaping and painting the trestles and underpasses as part of the Lake Avenue revitalization efforts. During a site visit, Lohmann said he rediscovered the overgrown monument.

“When I started talking to people about the memorial, they asked, ‘What memorial are you talking about?’” the councilman said. “That’s the point. You couldn’t see it. It was overgrown and in complete disrepair.”

When the town sent its park employees to begin taking out overgrown shrubs, Lohmann said he received a call from MTA police officers who showed up and threatened to arrest the men for allegedly for ripping apart the memorial. After a phone call, and the two public agencies reached an agreement moving forward.

The St. James Vietnam War memorial has been cleaned up and the landscaping redone, water and electrical lines run to ensure future maintenance, and a light installed to illuminate the American flag. The monument was first dedicated in memory of the two St. James Sherwood brothers, William and George, who died three weeks apart in France while serving in World War I.

The newly refurbished and cleaned up Vietnam War memorial at St. James LIRR train station. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“I’m sure everyone here has had someone in the military who has served our country,” Sal Riccobono, assistant vice commander of Sgt. John W. Cooke Post 395 of St. James. “We want you to remember all of them and appreciate all they did for us that brought us to this point today.”

Both Springer and Riccobono said that the membership of their veterans organizations are rapidly dwindling, and they both hope to bring newer and younger service members into the fold. Springer said the Sherwood Brothers post has seen 12 of its World War II veterans die in the past year.

“When I tell you from the bottom of my heart, the way to keep their stories alive is to constantly talk about them,” Richard Kitson, local chapter president of the Vietnam Veterans of America. “If you are in that post, what a tribute to the Sherwood brothers this is that you keep their memories alive.”

A former U.S. Marine, Kitson said both his brother, John, and a best friend died serving in Vietnam. He found comfort in the St. James rededication ceremony.

“This is really touching. It’s very, very touching — it’s touched my heart,” he said, wiping a tear from his eye.”

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New York State Sen. John Flanagan, far left, and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, third from left, announce the $3.9M in state funding for infrastructural improvements. Photo by Kyle Barr

With funds finally in place for St. James sewers, Smithtown’s capital projects might finally be getting off (or under) the ground.

New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) announced Oct. 29 that the Town of Smithtown would be receiving $3.9 million from the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a non-specific discretionary pot of funding for municipal assistance. The funds will be added to the town’s available money to create a sewer
district along Lake Avenue.

This is how I see it, [the town] come up with the plans, and we do whatever we can to help them out, especially when it comes to the actual cost of the project.”

—John Flanagan

“This is how I see it, [the town] come up with the plans, and we do whatever we can to help them out, especially when it comes to the actual cost of the project” Flanagan said. “This is a great indication of cooperation: town cooperation, local cooperation and intermunicipal cooperation.”

In June, the town released a report provided by Melville-based H2M architects + engineers that calculated the projected costs of installing dry sewer mains and pump stations needed to build a sewer district for the Lake Avenue business district. The architectural firm came up with two methods to install the sewers: the first would cost approximately $3.8 million to install gravity sewers, a force main and pump station needed to reach a sewage treatment plant but would not provide for full road restoration; the second design would cost the town roughly $6.2 million with road restoration costs included.

The estimated costs for the proposed St. James Sewer District were calculated on the premise that Gyrodyne, LLC will build a sewage treatment plan with the capacity to accommodate its neighboring Lake Avenue businesses. Gyrodyne has continued to say it will work with the town, according to Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).

“The main component to revitalize any business district is you have to reach the [Suffolk County] Board of Health requirements, and because of the present-day septic systems it’s just not possible to do,” he said. “The new sewer mains are what will make this project successful.” 

The town is currently sitting on $4.6 million for St. James business district improvements, including $2.4 million to replace the area’s 54-year-old water mains. The supervisor added he expects the town will sit down with engineers either in January or February 2019 to discuss the logistics of the project, and that construction could begin by fall 2019.

A number of local business people and civicleaders attended the Oct. 29 press conference where Flanagan and town officials announced the funding. Though many said they were excited by the prospect of sewers, they were also aware that construction, both the tearing and replacing of sidewalks and asphalt, could disrupt existing businesses. Wehrheim said there could be plans for doing the work in sections, separated by the connecting streets all the way down Lake Avenue.

“Everyone on this street is nervous about what’s happening. But I’m certain in the long run it will do amazing things for our town, community and business life.”

— Natalie Weinstein

“It’s going to be a huge disturbance, but we’re prepared for that,” the supervisor said.

Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James, said they will take the long-term view that the community will benefit more from construction.

“We’re going to help them, whatever the time frame,” Maher-Weisse said. “Our organization represents the businesses and we’ll be there to get people in to patronize.”

Natalie Weinstein, a Lake Avenue business owner and president of the nonprofit Celebrate St. James, an organization that hosts artistic events in the community, said the best way to revitalize the area is to make it focused on the arts.

“We have a wonderful challenge,” she said. “Everyone on this street is nervous about what’s happening. But I’m certain in the long run it will do amazing things for our town, community and business life.”

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St. James residents welcomed fall with a classic display of cars along Lake Avenue.

The Community Association of Greater St. James held its annual Car Show Sept. 24. The cars displayed covered the entire spectrum from antiques and muscle car to exotics. Cars and trucks were lined up along Lake Avenue for attendees to check out.

Click through the gallery above to see some of the cars on display and see if we caught you scoping out a classic. 

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A Chicane, or S-shaped traffic calming measure, installed on Montclair Avenue in St. James. Photo by Kyle Barr

While new car owners in St. James are excitedly revving their engines, local residents are closing their windows and shaking their heads.

Several residents in the area of Montclair Avenue and Rutherford Street said they are tired of traffic by people test driving cars from the considerable number of dealerships on Middle Country Road. Some are asking Town of Smithtown officials to close off Montclair Avenue before the residential end of the road or create speed bumps on Rutherford Street.

he regular amount of traffic is just crazy for a residential section. When we first moved here it was nothing like this.”

— Patti McGovern

“There are more dealerships now that are taking their people and directing them to use Montclair [Avenue],” Patti McGovern, a 30-year resident on St. James Avenue South said. “The regular amount of traffic is just crazy for a residential section. When we first moved here it was nothing like this.”

The area is home to a number of dead-end residential roads north of Route 25/Middle Country Road along Rutherford Street, which is connected to Middle Country Road through Montclair Avenue and Arlington Avenue. McGovern said that many people use these roads as a shortcut due to Smithtown High School East being located to the north. Other people test driving from local dealerships push their new cars close to 50 mph on the residential road, well above the local speed limit.

The Town of Smithtown’s Traffic Safety Department conducted a traffic study through the month of May that determined average weekday traffic was approximately 500 vehicles traveling westbound and 630 eastbound between Montclair Avenue and Jackson Avenue. The study showed 85 percent of cars had an average speed between 31 and 35 mph. The survey concluded that the number of cars was normal for a road like Rutherford, and there wasn’t a speeding issue on roads north of Montclair Avenue.

A sign posted on Montclair Avenue in St. James. Photo by Kyle Barr

Despite the study results, McGovern said even a few speeding cars could be a real hazard.

“That 15 percent, stipulated with 1,200 vehicles, means there are [approximately] 180 vehicle trips coming here in speeds excess of 40 and above,” McGovern said. “That’s more than any neighborhood should bear.”

Residents have been making noise about these traffic issues for close to four years, according to McGovern. In 2015, the town agreed to build a chicane, a S-shaped traffic-slowing and road-narrowing measure, on Montclair. McGovern said that even with the road being narrowed to hinder large trucks, the chicane has not done enough to slow traffic.

“The chicane had to be built so that it had access for emergency vehicles, so any kind of truck can get through, even if they get up on the curbs of the chicane,” McGovern said.

Rutherford Street resident David Friedman said it has become a huge problem to see people test driving their cars down local residential streets — and in their haste, often running the stop sign at the intersection at Rutherford Street and Montclair Avenue. Friedman said there is a school bus stop near that same corner, and he often fears for children’s safety.

“It’s customer preference whether they want to be on the main road or the back road, but I think a lot of the traffic in this area has to do with there being multiple dealerships.”

— David Toomey

“It’s constant, and some of them are just very discourteous,” he said. “Some of them are using it to test their engine — making a lot of noise.”

Middle Country Road is home to more than 10 car dealerships all within a few miles radius of each other. Friedman said that he has seen cars from the Smithtown Nissan and Competition BMW of Smithtown driving on their roads, but the worst, he said, has come from the Competition Subaru of Smithtown located at the corner of MontclairAvenue and Middle Country Road.

David Toomey, the general manager for the Subaru dealership, said he does not specifically emphasize people test drive on Montclair; but, if they do, he said he advises them to maintain the speed limit.

“We’re trying to minimize traffic in the back [residential] areas,” Toomey said. “It’s customer preference whether they want to be on the main road or the back road, but I think a lot of the traffic in this area has to do with there being multiple dealerships.”

In terms of the number of Subaru test vehicles driving on the residential neighborhoods, he said most of the traffic is from dealership employees driving to their new dealership located at 601 Middle Country Road. He said there should be little to no Subaru cars on local roadways once the company finishes relocating in early September.

Town of Smithtown residents now have a place where they can sit down to remember the life of 6-year-old Paige Keely along with other children who have died too soon.

Three Nesconset residents Danielle Hoering, Bridget Scher and Sasha Worontzoff, members of Tackan Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Association, spearheaded the creation of a memorial to Paige Keely installed at Nesconset gazebo Aug. 2.

Paige Keeley. Photo from St. James Funeral Home

The 6-year-old Paige was first-grader at St. James Elementary who died suddenly of a rare, undetected brain condition called arteriovenous malformation Jan. 8. It’s an abnormal development of blood vessels that connect arteries and veins, which occurs in less than 1 percent of the population, according to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center based in Minnesota.

“I know what it’s like to lose someone,” Worontzoff said. “People end up forgetting after a while or move onto the next big thing and we didn’t want people to.”

The St. James community initially showed its support for Keely’s parents, Tom and Gina, along with her two siblings by tying pink ribbons – Paige’s favorite color – around trees, stop signs and telephone poles in the community. Now, there is a permanent pink ribbon at the Nesconset gazebo.

In memory of Paige and all children who have died, a cherry blossom tree donated by Borella Nursery Wholesale Growers in Nesconset was planted near the gazebo as it will blossom with pink flowers each year. The tree was surrounded by a garden with a stone plaque, and a white bench inscribed a pink ribbon dedicating it “In Memory of Paige Keely.”  The Town of  Smithtown Parks, Building & Grounds Department helped install the memorial.

“We wanted to do it in a public area so that all families could come and enjoy it, not just at a school,” Scher said. “We just wanted a spot where people can sit and reflect or pay respect to Paige and the family.”

The gazebo was selected as the memorial site because several public events like the Nesconset Concert series are hosted at the park, attracting families and community members. Local businesses and those in the community donated money to help fund the project.

“People end up forgetting after a while or move onto the next big thing and we didn’t want people to.”

– Sasha Worontzoff

“We wanted each person and each establishment to have a sense of contribution to this permanent fixture in our community,” Worontzoff said. “We really just wanted Nesconset people to help and be a part of it.”

Worontzoff and Hoering had to get permission from Smithtown’s elected officials in order to build the memorial on town-owned land.

“We were so grateful and appreciative that the parks and rec and Town Hall were so quick and knew our story ahead of time,” Worontzoff said. “It was wonderful.”

She hopes local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops will maintain the memorial and keep it in good condition throughout the years.

This is the second memorial to be constructed in Paige’s memory. Earlier this summer, St. James Elementary School dedicated a butterfly garden on its grounds at the Keely family’s request.