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Village of Port Jeff

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Photo from the Port Jefferson Free Library

Captain Rob, a Port Jefferson native, retired FDNY Firefighter and owner of Hook and Ladder Company, brought his full-scale fire engine to the parking lot of the Port Jefferson Free Library.

Children learned about fire safety and participated in a head to head bucket brigade relay race, completed a fire safety obstacle course and put out simulated fires with a state-of-the-art firefighter simulator. 

Children also were able to enter the fire engine for pictures.  

Photo by Julianne Mosher

And they’re off!

On Saturday, Aug. 14 cars from the last century geared up to tackle the ascent on East Broadway in Port Jefferson village to commemorate the 1910 hill climb.

Sponsored by the Port Jefferson Harbor Education & Arts Conservancy, in partnership with the village, the event allows vintage car enthusiasts to retrace the original hill climb course as spectators cheer them throughout this historic tribute. 

According to the event chair, Bob Laravie, this was the seventh recreation of the climb – its original, as the name states, being in 1910.

“We’re celebrating right where the original cars ran,” he said. “We had every decade starting from 1909 up to one car from 1980.”

The conservancy decided to bring back the hill climb in 2010, with the plan to run again every five years. After a successful 2015 run, the pandemic halted the 2020 event. 

So, the 2021 hill climb was highly anticipated for people who love old cars. While many drivers were local to Port Jefferson and its surrounding communities, others came from across Long Island — as far as Queens and Montauk. One couple brought their 1911 Hupmobile Model 20 roadster across the Sound on the ferry to participate. 

Laravie said there were about 60 vehicles at the start of the climb, parked outside the Village Center. 

“We’ve done this every five years since the 100th anniversary and we look forward to doing it again in four years,” said Lisa Perry, president of the conservancy.

Mayor Margot Garant said the event speaks about the village’s role in the automobile industry which many people are not fully aware of. She noted that after the building — which is now the Village Center — was no longer used for making boats, car engines were created inside its walls. 

Some of the early 20th-century cars at the event very well could have had their engines made in Port Jefferson. 

“It’s great to see the turnout today,” Garant said at the event. “And, more importantly, to celebrate the history of the village in another dimension.”

You can watch a recording of the hill climb here.

Mayor Margot Garant was joined with all the different groups who made the new Barnum Avenue parking lot possible this week at a official “ribbon cutting.” Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Barnum Avenue parking lot is officially open and ready to be used. 

As part of the village’s downtown revitalization project, the lot was upgraded to include 46 new parking spaces, an electric vehicle charging station and filtration system to mitigate flooding and stormwater runoff. 

On Tuesday, May 11, village officials, along with the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and representatives from the county and state, celebrated its grand opening.

“We are very, very proud of this new parking lot,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “This is the first new parking lot in the Village of Port Jefferson in over 50 years. I think that’s amazing.”

And it started about six years ago when there was a vision to remove an eyesore and put in something new. 

Located east of the Joe Erland baseball field, an old, vacant building was once located on the property. 

The Barnum Avenue parking lot. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The several-year-long process to remove the building, clean it up and turn it into a free municipal lot that is futuristic in its amenities finally came to fruition in March of this year. 

The new 32,000-square-foot lot includes 46 new spaces oriented diagonally, including two handicap spots and two EV charging stations. The lot has a one-way entrance, to help alleviate traffic congestion. 

Almost entirely technology-driven, the lot is free to everyone — all a visitor has to do is register with the barcode scan. 

“We’re trying to encourage most of our merchants and their employees to park here for free to keep all the high proximity spots available for patrons,” she said. “That way, they can have a better turnover at your shop or your restaurant.”

Garant added that last week, the village had over 4,800 parking sessions with a revenue just under $12,000.

“That means we are back to a pre-pandemic number, folks,” she said. 

The lot came to be thanks to a $200,000 jumpstart grant from Suffolk County back in 2019. The funding also helped make the lot eco-friendly, adding bioswales bordering the foot entrance on Barnum Avenue to aid in flood mitigation. Those bioswales help with stormwater runoff.

“Being conscious of stormwater runoff, and what it can do — the damage it can cause to the harbor — and making sure that when we add asphalt, we are collecting the water and it’s not bringing contaminants into our bays and waterways, that was critically important to this project,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

Overnight parking not permitted and will be tracked.

Bill and Lauren Brown, the new owners of SkinMed Spa in Port Jefferson. Photo by Julianne Mosher

A new spa has opened up Down Port, but it’s different than the rest.

Lauren Brown, a village resident and registered cosmetic nurse, decided during the COVID-19 pandemic that she wanted to own her own space. 

“I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” she said. “The pandemic just got me reevaluating life and seeing what really matters and where my passions are.”

With her husband, Bill, on board to help, Brown officially took over the former Max & Millie storefront at 142 E Main Street in February. She said it felt like destiny.

In the industry for eight years, Brown has worked for dermatologists and plastic surgeons. While in those offices, she noticed that patients were tired of taking medications, antibiotics and putting chemicals into their skins. 

“I thought about it and there are so many great, all-natural treatments out there and other things that we can do instead of always loading ourselves up with medicine,” she said. 

So that’s when she got to work.

After finding the space in January, and signing the lease a month later, she and her husband completely revamped inside the former clothing boutique that closed in December. 

“I’ve noticed that a lot of the businesses that do really well around here are many of these holistic businesses, because people are looking for more natural treatments to take care of their skin,” she said. 

SkinMed Spa offers all the things that a typical spa doesn’t bring to the table. 

“We are a place that offers all-natural rejuvenation services that are really targeting conditions of the hair, skin and nails,” Brown said.

An inside look at SkinMed Spa in Port Jefferson. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Some treatments are for thinning hair, hair loss, acne and its scars, facial rejuvenation for fine lines and the breakdown of collagen. Brown said that SkinMed Spa is a place where troublesome issues can be fixed.

“If you actually have something going on in your skin, or you’re trying to maintain your skin to keep it up, this is the place for you,” she said. “I just wanted to offer a very calming and relaxing environment where people could just come and look around and even ask questions.”

Brown said her spa is a place where there is no judgement. Part of her store is an apothecary where she will sell affordable skin products that won’t break the bank.

“We sell affordable skincare products that are all natural that don’t have any dyes, sulfates or chemicals in them,” she said. “And customers can actually sit down with someone who knows about skin, and that I can help guide them in the right place to help treat some of these conditions.”

SkinMed Spa officially opened its doors on April 1 and since then, Brown has already gotten dozens of happy clients.

“What I’ve noticed over the last two weeks is everyone that I’ve been treating — within 24 hours — their relative or best friend is booking a treatment which honestly makes me feel over the moon,” she said. “I’m not just trying to do a facial treatment. I really wanted to have people’s skin be transformed and be happy with it.”

Bill said the services his wife offers are medical grade.

“You’re getting that kind of quality without going to a doctor’s office,” he said. “You’re getting real quality service in a more boutique kind of fashion.”

Some of the services include micro needling, which helps regenerate cells, plasma lifts, microdermabrasion, dermaplane, jet peels and no-needle lip plumping with hyaluronic acid.

“I wanted it to be almost like when you’re walking in the city, and you find like a really cool, swanky place,” she said.

But without the price tag. Brown said the services offered are a fraction of the cost compared to a doctor’s office.

“I wanted to be different where people could escape and you could think about yourself for a little bit,” she said. “How many how often do we put ourselves first? This is a place where you can relax, you can turn everything off, focus on yourself for a good hour, and go home with some stuff that makes you feel happy without spending a ton of money.”

SkinMed Spa is taking appointments online. To book, visit skinmedspapj.com.

“If it’s not the right service for you, we’ll talk about it,” Brown said. “It’s not we’re not going to just do something if it’s not right for your skin.”

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Clifton “Kip” Lee, who served as Port Jefferson’s mayor from 1965 to 1971, is shown on the village’s Main Street. During his administration, Project Rejuvenation brought a “new look” to Port Jefferson and helped revive the village’s ailing downtown commercial center. Photo from the Michael F. Lee Collection

By Kenneth Brady

Gene Marvey could not stop thinking about the magazine article that he had just read. The story described how communities across America were reviving their failing business districts by following a simple plan. The same approach, thought Marvey, might succeed in rejuvenating the commercial area of Port Jefferson where he had a store.

“Old Towns Come Alive,” the article that had caught Marvey’s imagination, appeared in the March 1965 issue of the Rotarian and featured the work of Dr. Milton S. Osborne who had revitalized 42 communities in the United States.

Known as the “village restorer,” Osborne showed shop owners easy ways to dress up the facades of their establishments. The face lifting did not involve any structural changes or major expenditures, guaranteed local control over the project and maintained the architectural integrity of the subject area.

Marvey shared Osborne’s ideas with Port Jefferson’s mayor, Clifton “Kip” Lee and the village trustees, who voted unanimously to invite Osborne to Port Jefferson for a consultation and to underwrite the attendant fees.

Osborne’s method was simple: each merchant submitted a photo of his storefront. Osborne then prepared a sketch of the shop’s remodeled façade which served as a guide for the suggested renovations.

For $500 to $1,000 per building, estimated Osborne, a typical Port Jefferson merchant could reface his store by merely replacing shutters, hanging flower boxes, adding wrought iron railings, installing mullions and painting the shop’s exterior in harmonious colors.

The button was used to publicize Project Rejuvenation. The numbers refer to the July 4, 1967 weekend when Port Jefferson staged a summer festival to showcase its “new look.”
Photo from the Michael F. Lee Collection

These actions, explained Osborne, would preserve and enhance what he deemed was the semi-colonial character of the village. Osborne cautioned, however, that the effort would only succeed if there was cooperation between government and the business community.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce enthusiastically endorsed Osborne’s plan and formed a committee charged with implementing what became known as Project Rejuvenation.

With a target date of July 4, 1967 set for the plan’s completion, work on remodeling Port Jefferson’s storefronts began in earnest. Davis Comfort Corporation, fuel oil dealers on East Broadway, was the first firm to reface its building. Frank Hocker and Son, real estate and insurance agents on Main Street, was the second and Kella’s Steak House, located on Main Street a stone’s throw from the railroad station, was the third.

Opening in 1903, the Port Jefferson railroad station was in need of a face lift. The LIRR embraced the Osborne Plan and renovated the terminal’s stark interior and landscaped its dreary grounds. A sign at the depot celebrated the effort and proclaimed that the modernization of the station would create a “new look” at the “doorway” to the village.

As summer 1967 approached, merchants rushed to dress up their shops by Project Rejuvenation’s rollout on July 4. Along the village’s streets, residents joked they were unable to enter the very stores that were clamoring for customers because their paths were often blocked by the dozens of contractors laboring in Port Jefferson’s commercial center.

With the remodeling finally over, the Chamber reported that about 85% of the village’s shops had renewed their facades. The “unveiling” occurred during the July Fourth Rejuvenation Festival, which featured a parade, soap box derby, fireworks display, and other activities.

Measured by the Chamber’s goal of drawing crowds to Port Jefferson to show off the village’s spruced up shops, the event scored a hit. An estimated 25,000 people visited Port Jefferson during the festival weekend, but aside from its immediate effect, Project Rejuvenation had a lasting impact on the village.

Port Jefferson’s “new look” caught the public eye, put the historic seaport village on the map and sparked Port Jefferson’s commercial renewal by recapturing the tourist market that the village had once enjoyed but had lost to the ravages of time.

Despite this rosy picture, Project Rejuvenation had its detractors. According to critics, the Osborne Plan was to supplement Port Jefferson’s 1965 Master Plan, not became its substitute. Rather than tackling thorny problems that demanded long-range planning, some argued that Port Jefferson went with a short-term solution and kicked the can down the road.

Project Rejuvenation dealt with the village’s shops, not with its waterfront industries. While the Osborne Plan improved Port Jefferson’s storefronts, overburdened trucks still rumbled through the village’s downtown, driving potential customers away.

Although the architecture in Port Jefferson’s business district was eclectic, Project Rejuvenation prescribed an early American style. The results may have been pleasant, but they hardly reflected the village’s history. 

Upper Port Jefferson took a back seat during Project Rejuvenation. While the railroad station and some nearby buildings were refaced, most of the work occurred in the village’s downtown. Even the July Fourth Rejuvenation Festival was geared to lower Port Jefferson.

As with any innovation, the Osborne Plan had its drawbacks, but in recognition of its overall success, in 1968 Project Rejuvenation received the Long Island Association’s coveted Community Betterment Award. In addition, Marvey and Lee were honored in 1967 and 1968, respectively, with the Chamber’s prestigious “Man of the Year Award,” given for their outstanding contributions to the community, particularly their roles in Project Rejuvenation.

Over 50 years since the launch of the Osborne Plan, Port Jefferson remains committed to village improvement, continuing the mission of Project Rejuvenation in the revitalization initiatives of today.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

The crime scene outside Dunkin' Donuts in the village. Photo from Margot Garant

This story was updated to include more details provided by the SCPD:

Suffolk County Police Homicide section detectives are investigating a homicide that occurred in Port Jefferson on March 24.

According to a representative from the SCPD, an adult male was fatally shot on Main Street, near West Broadway at approximately 3:35 p.m.

Sixth Precinct officers responded to a 911 call reporting a man shot in front of 122 Main Street. Upon arrival, officers found a man on the ground with a gunshot wound.

The man was transported to St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson where he was pronounced dead. His name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Mayor Margot Garant said the two individuals involved in a dispute were not from the area and a new camera located on the corner of the site was able to capture the altercation. The camera is hooked up directly to the SCPD Real Time Crime Center.

“We’re very sorry to see this happen,” Garant said. “This just shows that nowhere is exempt from gun violence, but we are committed to keeping our village safe.”

She added that code enforcement and the village are working diligently alongside the police department throughout the investigation.

On March 25, SCPD released the victim as 25-year-old David Bliss Jr. of Shirley.

This is an ongoing story. Check back to TBR News Media for updates.

SCPD crime scene vans outside Danford's Hotel and Marina in the village. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Suffolk County Police Homicide detectives are investigating a body that washed up near Danfords Hotel and Marina in Port Jefferson at approximately 3 p.m. on Jan. 28.

Detectives said a man in his 40s was discovered in the water. Sources say it was called in when spotted by Port Jefferson Ferry workers.

A police officer at the scene said it appears non-criminal at this time.

An autopsy will determine the cause of death.

 

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.”