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Village of Port Jefferson

Photo by Julianne Mosher

For its seventh year, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Race Festival this past weekend.

Full of color and culture, dragons danced around Mayor Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park on Saturday, Sept. 8 for a day full of fun festivities. 

Originally spearheaded by Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber, she came up with the idea after she attended a dragon boat race festival in Cape May, New Jersey, a few years ago.

“We could not be more pleased that coming somewhat out of COVID we were able to successfully run a safe outdoor event with excellent participation and with wonderful weather,” Ransome said. 

Opening ceremonies began at the Jill Nees Russell Performance Stage at 8:30 a.m. and included a performance by the Asian Veterans Color Guard, singing of the national anthem by Alanna Wu, a Blessing of the Dragon and the traditional “Eye Dotting” ceremony to awaken the dragon.

“To have people come to Port Jefferson, to this beautiful park, and spend the day here is great,” said Stu Vincent, first vice president of the chamber.

This year’s event consisted of 17 racing teams with dragon boats provided by High Five Dragon Boat Co. The teams competed on a 250-meter, three-lane racing course in Port Jefferson Harbor, and were made up of 20 “paddlers,” one steersman and one drummer. 

Along with the races, the festival hosted several performances including the famous Lion Dance, Taiko and Korean Drum performances, martial arts demonstrations and Asian singing.

In the middle of the festival, teams also competed for best t-shirt, where The Moody Team won. 

Team NYCB took home the gold, while Vax NYC placed second and Extreme NY placed third.

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Photo by Julianne Mosher

Butterflies, bees and little birds.

Those are the creatures that have been living throughout some of Port Jefferson village’s pollinator gardens and helping out the local environment. 

Earlier this summer, the village began receiving some complaints that certain gardens were overgrown — the most common one was a small garden outside of the Port Jefferson Village Center that is home to a pollinator and butterfly garden, with a large anchor front and center.

Village gardener, Caran Markson, said she was injured and unfortunately was put on a medical leave. That’s when the village parks department decided to step in and help clean up the garden that some residents were saying was “getting out of hand.”

When Markson found out, she was devastated.

“I take it very personal,” she said. “We should be educating anyone who lives in the village or who visits the village about what the gardens can do.”

A pollinator garden is a garden that is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a range of pollinating insects. A pollinator garden can be any size and the village is home to many different ones.

These gardens are full of plants that naturally attract, feed and provide habitat for different wildlife, and help the local ecosystem — and ultimately the environment. 

“I had it on a national list through the Pollinator Partnership,” Markson said. “I leave signs about what they do.”

Pollinator Partnership’s is a national nonprofit with the mission to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education and research.

While Markson was gone, many of the plants were torn out.

“I’m blown away,” she added. “I’m so upset.”

When trustee Rebecca Kassay heard that the garden was cleaned up, she decided to create a task force of volunteers to take care of the pollinator gardens while Markson was away.

An environmentalist herself, Kassay knows the importance of the flowers that line the roads of Port Jefferson. 

On Friday, Sept. 10, she and several other volunteers gathered behind the anchor garden at Harborfront Park to clean up the weeds but keep the specific flowers that are home to monarch butterflies and bees.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“That’s part of the reason why it’s here, but it’s also here because it’s beautiful,” she said. “With our village gardener out on medical leave, she specializes in the maintenance of these types of gardens on our park staff. So, as someone who worked with these types of gardens for a decade in my career, I’m very happy to step up and lead local enthusiasts.”

Part of the volunteer program is to not only clean things up, but to also educate people who are interested in learning about the benefits of these plants. 

“This is a great opportunity for them to come down and learn about pollinator gardens, while making their village more beautiful at the same time,” Kassay said.

The trustee added that the next several volunteer meetups will continue to “edit” other gardens.

“The plants sort of grow as they want to, and our goal and responsibility as gardeners of a pollinator garden is to edit and make sure it’s aesthetically pleasing for folks who may or may not know the ecological value of the garden,” she said. 

While Markson appreciates the help while she’s absent, she’s still upset that the anchor garden at the center of the roundabout has been changed.

“It was a wonderful garden,” she said. “It’s a little too late.”

Trustee Kathianne Snaden, who spearheads the village’s beautification efforts, said there will be other initiatives to spruce up the village.

“Our end goal is to clean up and plant more colorful flowers, especially uptown,” she said.

Snaden added that Upper Port has been neglected “for too long,” and “a lot can be done in the short term.”

As development begins with the new apartments there, she decided to add stone or cement planters to overfill with flowers. During the holidays, they will add more Christmas decorations as well. 

“There’s no better way to help businesses and have developers come in than to make it look more beautiful now with color,” she said. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Snaden added another initiative is to create a children’s garden soon, filled with flowers that were purchased this week from the elementary school PTA’s flower bulb sale. Both the children’s garden and uptown planters are expected to start up soon.

Interested pollinator gardeners can email Kassay at [email protected] to RSVP for the next cleanup opportunities on Sunday, Sept. 26, at Harborfront Park from 2-5 p.m., and on Oct. 17 at the triangle garden at High Street and Spring Street.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Dozens of people came together to remember September 11, 2001 last week during the Port Jefferson Fire Department’s annual 9/11 memorial early Saturday morning.

Port Jefferson firefighters, EMS and juniors lined up to salute three wreaths placed at the foot of the monument, while the names of Town of Brookhaven first responders who perished during the attacks were read. A bell rang every time a name was said. 

Port Jefferson School District music teacher Christian Neubert and students Kasumi Layne-Stasik and Andrew Patterson paid tribute to those who lost their lives with several moving musical performances. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

The 12th annual Village Cup Regatta, a friendly competition between Mather Hospital and the Village of Port Jefferson, set sail Saturday on the Long Island Sound all for a good cause.

Presented by the Port Jefferson Yacht Club, the Regatta raised funds for Mather’s Palliative Medicine Program and the Lustgarten Foundation, which funds pancreatic cancer research. 

During the event, held on Sept. 11, the Regatta honored all those who perished in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the first responders who answered the call, while members of the hospital and village helped crew boats. The race had three classes based on boat size, and this year, the village won. $104,000 was raised and divided between both the Palliative Medicine Program and the Lustgarten Foundation.

Actor, director and local resident Ralph Macchio was again community ambassador for the event. 

Macchio has helped to publicize the important work of the two programs funded by the Regatta for the last nine years. Macchio’s wife, Phyllis, is a nurse practitioner in Mather’s Palliative Medicine Program.

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On Spring Street, the 1944 Hurricane brought down a tree which crashed against the Methodist Church. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Port Jefferson is no stranger to hurricanes, having been pummeled by the big blows several times in its past. But while most villagers are familiar with named storms such as Carol and Donna, few are aware of the powerful Great Atlantic Hurricane of September 1944 and its impact locally.

At the Port Jefferson Shipyard, yachts were driven ashore by the 1944 Hurricane and a building demolished. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

World War II was the news in 1944, not the weather, relegating stories about an otherwise major storm to the back pages. In addition, the United States was sensitive about releasing information that could benefit the enemy, such as revealing that a defense plant had been battered by wind and wave. With little or no media coverage, the Great Atlantic Hurricane became a forgotten storm, but not by those in Port Jefferson who had experienced its fury.

The hurricane arrived in the village on Thursday, Sept. 14, about 5 p.m., beginning with torrential rains, but did not become a full force storm until about 10:30 p.m. when wind velocities ranged from 75 to 85 mph.

The gusts, combined with a normal flood tide, drove whitecaps from Long Island Sound into Port Jefferson Harbor and over the village’s shorefront, inundating some areas with more than two feet of seawater.

The 1944 Hurricane destroyed the Long Island Ice Company’s refrigeration plant on Port Jefferson’s East Broadway. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Surf Avenue (East Broadway) was particularly hard hit. The hurricane wrecked the lunchroom and gift shop at Bayles Landing, destroyed the Long Island Ice Company’s refrigeration plant, tore off the back of the Keystone Coal Company’s building, blew away the planking at the Standard Oil Company’s dock, and lashed what was once Wilson’s Sail Loft.

The bulkhead was undermined, plantings were washed away and the pavilion was damaged at Brookhaven Town’s new waterfront park, now Mary Bayles Park, which had been completed just days before the storm.

Seawater entered the Harborview Hotel, covering the ground floor, and the Vandall Building, bringing muck and mud into the Port Jefferson Service Club, a hospitality center for America’s uniformed military personnel.

But Surf Avenue was not the only area in Port Jefferson to feel the hurricane’s savage force. On West Broadway, the storm hammered the South Bay Water Company’s pumping station, the Tydol Oil Company’s pier and the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company’s freight office. Six yachts stored at the Port Jefferson Shipyard were driven ashore and a building was demolished.

The proprietor of Teddy’s Hotel at the foot of Main Street reported that 36 to 40 inches of water had flooded his cocktail lounge and dining room. In nearby stores, basements were submerged, the deluge spreading up to the police station on Arden Place. At Bishop’s Garage on the corner of Main Street and West Broadway, cars were ruined as seawater fouled their engines.

The 1944 Hurricane hammered the South Bay Water Company’s pumping station along Port Jefferson’s West Broadway. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

On the west side of the village, a large oil storage tank was toppled at the Swezey Coal and Feed Company’s property on Beach Street. Numerous boats sank in the yacht basin and small craft were later found along area beaches and in the salt meadow off West Broadway, blown far from their original locations.

Trees and utility poles were downed by the hurricane, taking out electric and telephone lines throughout Port Jefferson. On the corner of Main and Spring streets, one old tree cut wires as it crashed against the Methodist Church, but miraculously spared the building from serious damage. Two weeks after the storm, the village was still without full electric service.

The Port Jefferson Fire Department performed tirelessly throughout the emergency, pumping out flooded cellars in the village’s homes and businesses. The dedicated volunteers also provided electric generators at lightless Mather Memorial and St. Charles hospitals.

With so many draft-age men serving in the armed forces, younger citizens assisted police and highway departments in the days following the hurricane. The Minute Men Cadets, a unit of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office, patrolled downtown Port Jefferson’s darkened streets, protecting property from looters and vandals. Members of the Junior Auxiliary Brookhaven Town Police Department directed traffic in the village and cleared debris from its clogged roads.

The 1944 Hurricane blocked Port Jefferson’s East Broadway with downed utility poles, toppled trees and storm wreckage. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Although it would be tempting to compare the 1944 storm with other hurricanes that have walloped Port Jefferson, the effect of World War II on the village must be considered, making ranking difficult. For example, was power restored slowly in Port Jefferson because of the widespread damage resulting from the 1944 storm, wartime labor shortages, or both? Regardless, the Great Atlantic Hurricane was hardly a “forgotten storm” among villagers who had lived through the harrowing event.

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.     

Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America Vigiano Brothers Lodge 3436 gathered in Harborfront Park Saturday morning to remember two Long Island brothers who perished during the September 11 attacks.

Joseph, a police officer, and John, a firefighter, were among the nearly 500 Long Islanders who died 20 years ago on 9/11. Both brothers were from Deer Park.

Every year, the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America host a candlelight vigial to remember the lives of the Vigiano brothers and the other first responders who lost their lives that day.

View the Memorial Parade of Boats before race. Photo by Bob Savage

The 12th annual Village Cup Regatta, a friendly competition between Mather Hospital and the Village of Port Jefferson, will sail with full crews this Saturday, September 11. 

Join Ralph Macchio in supporting a most worthy cause. File photo by Bob Savage

Presented by the Port Jefferson Yacht Club, the Regatta raises funds for Mather’s Palliative Medicine Program and the Lustgarten Foundation, which funds pancreatic cancer research. The event has raised almost $640,500 for the two organizations. Last year’s event was held without crew members due to the pandemic. The event raised $40,000, which was divided between Mather and Lustgarten.

Actor/director and local resident Ralph Macchio will again act as community ambassador for the event. This is the ninth year Macchio has helped to publicize the important work of the two programs funded by the Regatta. Macchio’s wife, Phyllis, is a nurse practitioner in Mather’s Palliative Medicine Program.

The Regatta consists of Yacht Club-skippered sailboats divided into two teams representing Mather Hospital and the Village of Port Jefferson. Employees from the Hospital and Village help crew the boats, which race in one of three classes based on boat size. 

The festivities will begin at Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson Village at 10 a.m., where you can purchase t-shirts signed by Ralph Macchio, along with the event’s commemorative hats, nautical bags and mugs. The Memorial Parade of Boats begins at 11 a.m. at the Port Jefferson Village dock. All sailboats participating in the Regatta will pass by the park dressed in banners and nautical flags on their way out to the racecourse on Long Island Sound.

Following the race, a celebratory Skipper’s Reception and presentation of the Village Cup will take place in a restored 1917 shipyard building that now serves as the Port Jefferson Village Center.

Businesses, organizations and individuals can support the Regatta and the programs it funds by making a donation or purchasing tickets to attend the Skipper’s Reception or view the event on a spectator boat.. Sponsorships also are available. For more information and to purchase tickets please visit http://portjeffersonyachtclub.com/community/village-cup/ or www.facebook.com/villagecupregatta

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Photo from Rebecca Kassay

To maintain and keep Port Jefferson village’s pollinator gardens, Trustee Rebecca Kassay has implemented a new program and is looking for volunteers to help. 

According to Kassay, the village is home to several gardens that attract bees, butterflies, insects and some birds that help keep plants and flowers growing. These gardens full of plants naturally attract, feed and provide habitat for different wildlife. 

Starting this week, Kassay is looking for the community to come together and learn about these different gardens. On Friday, Sept. 10 from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., interested gardeners can meet with like-minded people at Harborfront Park Gardens, to focus on the border along the traffic circle by the Village Center. 

“Whether you’re an avid gardener, or this is your first time working with pollinator plants, we encourage you to join for these hands-on working and learning sessions,” Kassay wrote in the Port Jeff community garden newsletter. 

The program is open to volunteers ages 10 and up. 

“Volunteers will learn about pollinator and native gardens, and their ecological importance, as well as getting to know specific pollinator plants,” she added. “How to care for them, where to source them and more — all while pruning, weeding, digging  and making the village’s pollinator garden’s look as attractive to humans as they look to wildlife.”

There will be two more meet-ups, one on Sunday, Sept. 26 at Harborfront Park and another on Oct. 17 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the triangle garden at High Street and Spring Street. 

Those interested can email Kassay at [email protected]

Stock photo

The New York State Department of Transportation advised motorists today that beginning the week of Sept. 13, travel lanes will be shifted on State Route 25A (West Broadway) between Nicolls Road (Suffolk County Route 97) and Main Street in the Town of Brookhaven and Village of Port Jefferson, weeknights between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for approximately three weeks, weather permitting, to accommodate road resurfacing operations.

Motorists should follow the instructions of the flaggers for their safety and the safety of the highway work crew.

Electronic variable message signs have been posted near the work zone and will provide updated information.

Motorists are urged to plan accordingly and drive responsibly in work zones. Fines are doubled for speeding in a work zone.  Convictions of two or more speeding violations in a work zone could result in the suspension of an individual’s driver license.

For up-to-date travel information, call 511, visit www.511NY.org or download the free 511NY mobile app.

World Trade Center Twin Towers. Stock photo

It’s been 20 years since the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2001, which now means that high school students were nowhere near alive when the events actually took place.

The history teachers in local schools remember that day vividly — some were just children themselves in school that warm Tuesday morning.

Districts across the Long Island now include what happened that day in their curriculum — a day that impacted nearly 500 Long Islanders who were among the nearly 3,000 people killed at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93. 

At Port Jefferson high school, 11th grade U.S. history teacher Jesse Rosen said that the district uses the story of one of its own to teach students about what happened — the documentary “Man in Red Bandana.”

“As a department, we were exposed to this heroic story through a former graduate of PJHS, James Burke,” Rosen said. “James’ uncle, William F. Burke Jr., gave his life in the line of duty as an FDNY member on September 11, 2001. As a result, James and his family were introduced to other stories of heroism.”

Rosen, who is in his 15th year at the high school, said he was a freshman at SUNY Albany during the September 11 attacks. 

This image of James Burke hangs on the bulletin board of Jesse Rosen’s U.S. history classroom. It is a true reminder to ‘Never Forget.’ Photo from PJSD

“I remember an introductory to psychology class being canceled, walking back to my dorm seeing many other students with canceled classes,” he said. “After putting on the television in my dorm room, I recall watching the plane hit the second tower. Above all else, I recall a state of shock and confusion. At the time, I was completely unaware of the magnitude of the events that were unfolding.”

Bryan Vaccaro, a global studies teacher at the high school, was younger than his current students in 2001. He was in third grade.

“I can vividly recall that day moment by moment,” he said. “Most kids in my class were being picked up from school but me, and I wondered why everyone was leaving but me. When I got home seeing the images unfold on television was surreal, almost as if you couldn’t believe what was happening. An extra level of worry settled in as well since my uncle was a firefighter in the FDNY in Company Squad 270 at the time whose main focus was search and rescue.”

Vaccaro, who has been with the school district for five years, said that when he has to teach his students about September 11, it’s important to tackle the topic head on and make sure students are aware of how the events unfolded that day.

“Many don’t know that there were four total planes in three different locations, simply because at this point none of them were born,” he said. “We always welcome hard-hitting questions in the classroom and discuss thoroughly.”

He added when students learn about the events, they’re overwhelmed with emotion — shocked because although they’ve been exposed to images and videos of the attacks, they have minimal knowledge about what actually happened.

“By the end of the lesson I think their understanding is heavily increased,” he said. “My main premise for my 9/11 lesson is to prove that there are impactful moments in history where time stands still, and you can vividly depict where you were at that specific time.”

Vaccaro said each generation has those moments.

“Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, the Space Shuttle Challenger, 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing, etc.,” he noted. “And I make sure the students understand that it could happen next week, next year, 20 years from now, but there will be those moments for them. It makes history real and personal.”

Over the last 20 years, Island residents have felt a deep connection to that day. Vaccaro said that while it’s a sensitive and hard topic to talk about, it needs to be done. 

File photo

“I don’t think it’s difficult to teach a subject that hits home for Long Islanders,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be embraced wholeheartedly. It’s part of our story as a region and a country. It showed our resolve as people and proof that we can unite in times of chaos and tragedy — a characteristic that makes us the greatest country in the world.”

High school social studies and special education teacher Melissa Zinger has been an educator for 15 years, the last 10 at Earl. L. Vandermeulen High School. 

“On September 11, 2001, I was attending college on Long Island and was at home,” she said. “I remember my mother calling and asking me if I had heard what happened and to turn on the news. As we were on the phone the second plane hit. As I continued watching the news, my dad stormed through the front door in a panic after he raced home from work. He immediately did two things. He tried calling the Red Cross as he told me, ‘They will need blood and supplies,’ and next he made sure our American flag was hanging outside.”

Zinger said that reflecting on what happened 20 years ago, she realized that her parents’ reactions were different than what she was feeling personally.

“I watched the day unfold in shock, and my dad watched the day unfold with fear,” she said. 

Now as a teacher, she said her approach to teaching about 9/11 has changed.

“In my first few years of teaching, the approach was more reflective as students had their own memories of that day,” she said.  “And over the years, the students only know about 9/11 from what they have heard, so the approach has to also be educational, informative and reflective.”

As an educator, she has her own connection, experiences and emotions from that time, but she is able to see what her students feel depending on the closeness to their homes and experiences of their families. 

“Over the years the responses from students have changed as the students have no longer ‘lived through it’ as opposed to have lived through the impacts from it,” Zinger added. “In the beginning years of my teaching, students would share their memories of that day, one student I recall even remembering the exact name of the color crayon he was using when his mother got the call. Presently, I believe that the students are aware of the events and some more personally than others, however, a true understanding of how tragic and life changing for a country I believe they don’t. All they know is life post-9/11.”