Tags Posts tagged with "Village of Port Jefferson"

Village of Port Jefferson

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Conifer’s revised design plans for the Port Jefferson Crossing apartment complex were approved Sept. 17 after multiple design changes over the past several months. Photo from planning board meeting

Port Jeff’s latest apartment complex has the green light to proceed.

The Port Jefferson planning board unanimously agreed to conditionally approve site plans for Port Jefferson Crossing, a new apartment complex developed by regional affordable housing developer Conifer Realty just north of the Port Jeff railroad station along Main Street.

Jen Sigler, PJ village site plan reviewer, showed off the new renderings in the planning board’s Sept. 17 meeting, where designs have changed somewhat from their original June, July and August presentations. Gone are the red facades on the easternmost portion of the planned building, and overall the color is more continuous. The structure will have one type of external brick and windowed element on the first floor facing Main Street, and a second structure that is connected internally strikes out into the sidewalk slightly with so-called “bump outs.” The bottom brick portion on the eastern-most structure has changed to a grey color as well.

Some planning board members still felt lukewarm about some facade changes. Planning board member Laura Zimmerman was especially miffed, saying that the developer’s incremental changes have not done enough to change the overall cold and barren look of the building toward the southeast corner.

“This is a building that’s going to be there for 50 years, or however long it’s going to last,” Zimmerman said.

Kenneth Garvin, an architect for the developer, suggested they could add more character to the southeast tower on the wraparound. 

Current plans cite the three-story complex will have 45 units in total, 37 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments. The complex will also offer over 3,100 square feet of retail space. There are plans for a covered parking garage of 48 stalls for residents, a community room, laundry facilities and a gym. 

The board has also asked that the developer give the planning board greater detail and a better price-by-price point for specific costs on the project, though they did approve the developer’s bond amount at the estimated $1,177,947. The board will need to amend the application approval at a later date figure if additional budgetary details are later considered.

The developer had originally asked for a waiver on a payment in lieu of parking and a parkland fee, but the planning board has kicked the decision over to the board of trustees who will make that determination.

Alison LaPointe, the special village attorney for the Building and Planning Department, said the normal PILOP fee is set at $4,000 per space in the C-2 district thanks to a village resolution in 2018, though the parkland fee is set on a case-by-case basis. 

“It is common procedure for the planning board to request a proposed fee amount from the applicant and then upon review the planning board either asks for adjustments to the amount or approves,” she clarified in an email.

Once the number is approved the owner then has to secure bond documents, which are then reviewed by the village attorney, where upon approval the bond documents are executed.

Mayor Margot Garant confirmed in the village board’s Sept. 21 meeting that the board and developer would need to discuss a recreation fee in short order, which depends on the number of apartments and scope of the overall project.

The village still has to work with PSEG on the location of a utility box and utility lines. Port Jefferson has worked with the developer in establishing the creation of Station Street, which is planned to be a one-way road that provides entry to the adjacent parking lots just north of the train station parking lot and just before the initial footprint for the proposed development. 

LaPointe said the costs for Station Street are being shared between the village and developer. The Villages portion of Station street is funded with Restore NY grant funds at a 50-50 match. Certain contributions such as curbing from the applicant are to be partially financed by a state grant received in 2016.

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PJ Lobster House is just one of several local businesses whose owners say inspectors have repeatedly shown up to the restaurant around dinner time in a small, two-week period. Photo by Kyle Barr

Local restaurant owners have reached out to regional officials saying the New York State Liquor Authority inspections meant to determine if they’re complying with state mandates have become more than excessive, but actually damaging to their businesses.

‘I think they were making some restaurants sort of the poster children for: if you don’t comply, you face some significant penalties.’

—Kevin Law

A letter dated Aug. 24 saying just that was signed by Port Jefferson Village, Port Jeff chamber of commerce and BID leaders and sent to Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association. It was also copied to County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Cara Longworth, regional director of Empire State Development. Letter writers argued that the SLA inspections have put too much onus on restaurants when they’re barely struggling to get by.

“Please realize we totally agree that inspections need to take place and strive to have our

business owners here operate in full compliance,” the letter reads. “However, we are concerned that overemphasis is being put on our restaurants — rather than the bars that remain open after the kitchens are closed and continue to serve alcohol until 4 a.m.”

The letter further states that restaurant owners have seen groups of four come in at a time, usually around dinnertime, sometimes not showing ID, with one armed with a pistol and wearing a bulletproof vest.

James Luciano, the owner of PJ Lobster House, said he has personally seen SLA inspections come through five times within a 14-day period at about 7 p.m. each time. The agents, though courteous, informed him that they were not from the SLA but from a New York State Police task force. A group of men, one armed, strolling into an eating area when people are sitting down for dinner does not make a good impression on diners, he argued.

“I am not certain that is the perception that we want the general public to see,” Luciano said. “I stressed to them that this was borderline harassment.”

PJ Lobster House is not the only local bar or restaurant that’s experienced a heavy hand with inspections. One Junior’s Spycoast employee related seeing a massive number of inspections in just two weeks. Danfords Hotel & Marina has been previously cited for SLA violations July 4 as well, according to state documents.

Though he said he has not heard from the inspectors since just before the letter was sent, he and other business owners have experienced the stress of constant inspections.

New York State has, according to the latest numbers as of Aug. 28, suspended the liquor licenses for 168 businesses for not complying with COVID regulations, though the vast majority were businesses centered in the five New York City boroughs. Later, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Sept. 7 that seven bars and restaurants in New York state had their licenses revoked. Five of those were from Suffolk County.

The number of inspections, however, has yet to slow down. The governor’s office announced SLA and New York State Police task force members visited 1,064 establishments just on Sept. 6. Per the governor’s near-daily reports, inspectors conduct at least several hundred inspections daily.

In order to carry out reopening and COVID guidelines enforcement, New York has been broken up into regional economic development councils. The local task force, or “control room” contains members of the LIA, Bellone, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D), among others. It is captained by Longworth.

It’s a balancing act, trying to keep businesses healthy while avoiding a resurgence of the virus that would surely shut these businesses down for good. LIA’s Law said he received Port Jeff Village’s letter and has brought it up to members of the control room, whom he said were entirely sympathetic to the issues restaurants were having. Law, who has been at the forefront of Long Island’s reopening plan from the start, said hearing that armed and armored individuals have helped conduct inspections concerned everyone sitting at their daily video control center meetings.

“It’s impossible for them to inspect every restaurant and bar, because there’s just so many of them, so I think they were making some restaurants sort of the poster children for: if you don’t comply, you face some significant penalties,” Law said. “I think it was important that word did get out there so some businesses would comply. We all know with every type of category with every business, you have good guys and you have a couple knuckleheads who don’t obey by the rules and they ruin it for others.”

He said he and others did appreciate the village officials’ idea of focusing more on inspections of bars open in the early morning hours instead of weekday dinner time.

Though at the same time, Law said he and the local control room are only really in advisory positions, and it would require change on the state level to truly impact the rate of current inspections.

Either way, restaurants still remain in a tough spot, and Luciano said he and so many others continue to struggle.

“Our landlords and vendors don’t take IOUs,” the PJ Lobster House owner said. “We’ve done everything that has been asked. The numbers are way lower than they were. It’s been over six months. We can’t hang on that much longer, we are on a sinking ship.”

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PJ officials said soon all streetlights in the village will be replaced with energy effecient versions. Photo by Kyle Barr

The faces of Port Jeff officials are practically glowing with the news.

The New York Power Authority announced they are finally getting underway with it’s partnership with the Village of Port Jefferson to install energy efficient LED streetlights throughout the village. 

The nearly $2.4 million upgrade, implemented and financed by the power authority, includes the replacement of more than 1,100 decorative and cobra head style streetlights throughout the village with energy-saving LED fixtures. NYPA is providing upfront financing for the project, with payments to the power made in the years following from the cost-savings created by the reduced energy use.

“This project is a win-win for the environment and the village, with the expected reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as well as the significant savings the village will realize in terms of energy costs and maintenance once the energy-efficient LED lights are installed,” Mayor Margot Garant said in a release.

As part of the project, NYPA will also be replacing more than 700 additional interior and exterior lighting fixtures at village buildings and parks. NYPA is providing Port Jefferson with $225,000 in SMART city funding grants to support the project.

The project is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500 metric tons a year, or the equivalent of taking more than 100 cars off the road. 

In a release, the power authority said installation will begin this month and comply with all COVID-19 precautions.

“The replacement of more than 1,100 streetlights in Port Jefferson is a demonstration of the state’s steadfast commitment to fighting climate change and saving taxpayer money through innovative energy programs,” said NYPA president and CEO Gil Quiniones.

The new initiative is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Smart Street Lighting NY program, which calls for at least 500,000 streetlights throughout the state to be replaced with LED technology by 2025. NYPA has, or is in the process of installing more than 90,000 LED streetlights at municipalities across the state.

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One newcomer and one incumbent elected to Port Jeff Village Board

Ballots continued to be counted well into the night Sept. 15 in Belle Terre. Photo by Kyle Barr

In a contentious race between a slate of newcomers and longtime incumbents, it was the old guard who won out in the end.

Current Mayor Bob Sandak got 280 votes to challenger Enrico Scarda’s 169. Scarda is the president and founder of The Crest Group development agency which owns multiple properties around the Port Jeff area, including Danfords Hotel & Marina and The Waterview at the Port Jefferson Country Club. Sandak has been mayor since 2016, and has previously worked as a school administrator for multiple districts on Long Island.

The morning after the votes were counted, Sandak said in a phone interview he was glad the election is over, and moving forward he has already spoken to the other candidates “to arrange meetings and get their thoughts on what they wanted to accomplish — it’s always good to have new ideas,” he added. “We just want to move forward.”

In a statement, Scarda said he remains positive. He congratulated Sandak on his win and offered to assist the village should the admin want any help. He added regarding future elections that, “If the residents want me involved I will be there for them.”

“I will continue to stay involved with the village administration,” Scarda said. “Belle Terre needs residents to get involved and help Bob and the trustees to move the village forward.”

On the trustee side, incumbent trustees Sheila Knapp and Jacquelyn Gernaey won back their seats with 315 and 272 votes, respectively. Newcomer candidate Peter Colucci, a 12-year village resident, gained 128 votes. Fellow newcomer Lou Bove, the president and CEO of East Setauket-based contractor Bove Industries, gained 124 votes.

Poll workers the night of the vote Sept. 15 said this was the most attention any Belle Terre election has had in at least a few decades, especially for a village with just a little under 800 residents. Village Clerk Joanne Raso said they were up until midnight counting votes, which included two write-in votes and 73 absentee ballots.

Port Jefferson Village Elections

On the Port Jeff side, one incumbent and one newcomer trustee candidate have been elected to the village board. Both seats were uncontested after nine-year trustee Bruce D’Abramo announced this would be his last term on the board.

Rebecca Kassay, a local activist and owner of The Fox & Owl Inn in Port Jeff, gained 103 votes. Incumbent trustee Bruce Miller won 114 votes.

A total of 171 votes were cast, including 10 absentee ballots.

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Around 200 gathered at the 9/11 Memorial on TOB property in Port Jeff Sept 12. Photo by Steven Zaitz

On Sept. 12, the day after the 19th anniversary of 9/11, hundreds marched down Port Jeff’s Main Street to honor lives lost at the 9/11 memorial across from Village Hall.

Approximately 100 marchers started from the Port Jefferson Train Station where they sang the national anthem before coming down Main Street. Most walked but another group also came down the street on motorcycles. A large group Suffolk County Police were there to block traffic and lead the group down the road on motorcycles. Many of those marching were not wearing masks.

Most marched in good spirits and there were no reported confrontations between marchers and people on the sidelines.

After reaching the Brookhaven marina area, the crowd grew to about 200 before stopping in the small 9/11 memorial on Town of Brookhaven property. Once at the site, organizers, including former FDNY Lieutenant Daniel Dooley, who helped originally construct the 9/11 memorial, read off the names of those from Brookhaven town who died in the terror attacks 19 years ago. Other speakers included Vietnam Vet and PJSD alum David Mann.

Setauket Patriots, a local online right wing and pro-Trump group, organized the march through social media. While event organizer James Robitsek told TBR News Media before the event they wished it to be a-political, a small number of marchers bore flags, hats and other paraphernalia supporting President Donald Trump’s (R) reelection campaign. Others in the march sported thin blue line flags and other items that supported police.

The Village of Port Jefferson originally denied the organizers a permit to march at the end of August, citing a general moratorium on any new permits for marches and parades because of the ongoing pandemic. Village officials also said that the permit application the Setauket Patriots sent in was incomplete in the first place.

Organizers for the march previously told TBR News Media they felt the permit denial was a suppression of their constitutional right to assemble, and they announced they would be marching anyway.

All photos by Steven Zaitz

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Official sources said constables and a small group of young men got into a physical confrontation in the alleyway beside Chase Bank. Photo from Google Maps

A small group of young people got into a physical confrontation with Port Jefferson constables Wednesday, Sept. 2 after blocking traffic on Main Street. Officials said one code enforcement officer later required a visit to the hospital because of injuries sustained during the incident. 

Witnesses said a group of around a dozen young people, some with bikes and some without, stopped at the Starbucks along Main Street sometime after 3 p.m. When some young people went in to get drinks, one got into the middle of the street, stopped traffic and performed a few feats of acrobatics such as a backflip, cheered on by his friends on the sidewalk. Shortly after, the young man then sat “indian style” in the double yellow median in the middle of the busy street. 

Bystanders, fearing for the young man’s safety, called code enforcement, who arrived shortly after to confront the young men and get them to move from the street and their bikes from the curb.

In response to a request for details on the incident, Suffolk County Police said a group of teens on bicycles were blocking traffic on Main Street in Port Jefferson just before 4 p.m. Sept. 2 when they were told by code enforcement officers to move out of the roadway. Police said that the teens allegedly did not immediately comply and one of them pushed a code enforcement officer. 

Witnesses said the confrontation on Main Street moved to the alleyway beside Chase Bank, where some described that the confrontation became physical between constables and the young bikers. Details from witnesses on what transpired were imprecise, but official sources did confirm there was some kind of violent contact between at least one young man and code enforcement officers. 

Deputy Village Attorney Richard Harris said Code Enforcement Chief Fred Leute went to a hospital later that Wednesday night for injuries sustained during the encounter. Harris added that police told the village they were looking into charges. The village is still awaiting any further details from Suffolk County Police.

Village Trustee Kathianne Snaden, the liaison to code enforcement, said the altercation took place between just a few of the young men and code officers in the Chase Bank alleyway. Po

“[Police] have this case now under investigation,” Snaden said.

Police said that 6th precinct officers are still investigating, though they did not reveal if there were any arrests or charges filed.

For months residents have complained about groups of young bikers all across Suffolk County, either them doing tricks in the middle of busy roads or playing chicken with cars. Police have encouraged parents to talk to their children about the dangers of blocking traffic and riding in the middle of roads, but there have been more violent confrontations.

In early August, a large number of young bicyclists numbering around 30, according to witnesses and a now-removed video published to social media, harassed members of the Crossfit DHP gym in Port Jefferson Station. Shortly after that incident, police said two young men, both 15 years old of Centereach, were arrested later at their homes for violent actions during the August altercation. Police withheld the individuals’ names as they are both minors.

Mike Napoli, the owner of Gourmet Burger Bistro on Mill Creek Road, said he has personally had to deal with these young bicyclists on a regular basis throughout the summer. At one point, he said he confronted a group of about 20 who were outside his business when they were hosting outdoor dining.

“There’s families with young children, and [these young bicyclists] are doing wheelies, screaming, cursing in front of these people while they’re trying to eat,” Napoli said. “It’s a bad situation that needs to be stopped. The biggest problem is these kids know they can get away with things.”


Though the Setauket Patriots said their Fourth of July parade held in Port Jeff was an a-political event, a few cars like this military-style Jeep rolled down Main Street bearing “Trump 2020” paraphernalia. Photo by David Luces

The Setauket Patriots, a sometimes-controversial online conservative group, announced they plan to hold a 9/11 parade in Port Jefferson, even though this time they lack the village’s approval. 

The planned march, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 12, would take people from the train station all the way down to the 9/11 memorial across from Port Jefferson Village Hall, next to the marina parking lot. The village has not granted a permit for the march, but the group plans to go anyway. 

“This is about trying to follow the mandates.”

— Margot Garant

The Facebook page for the event states the event is planned because New York City, along with Suffolk and Nassau counties, have declined to hold public 9/11 ceremonies because of the pandemic. The patriots, a known pro-Trump group, said the event “is not a Trump rally but a 9/11 never-forget-our-first-responders event.” Organizers said they expect anywhere from 150 to 200 participants.

This is not the first event the group has decided to host in Port Jeff. When hundreds marched down Main Street in Port Jefferson for a Black Lives Matter march in June, the Setauket Patriots hosted a Fourth of July car parade in response. Both the protest march and Patriots parade received permits after discussions with village officials, which created changes of time and place for both events. This time, the conservative group filed for a permit but they claim their request was denied Friday, Aug. 28.

Village Attorney Brian Egan said an executive order signed July 6 by Mayor Margot Garant effectively stopped the village from signing any new permits for marches or protests. The order was enabled by the village’s previous declaration of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time it was signed, Garant said the permits for such protests and parades had been “a mistake” because of the ongoing pandemic.

In regards to any further action taken by the village, Egan said nothing would be enforced by Port Jeff’s constables, and it would instead fall on the Suffolk County Police Department. In response to whether the village plans any further action against the group if it does host its parade, he again reiterated that Port Jeff’s clerk would no longer be issuing permits for any kind of march.

Garant said that beyond the moratorium on permits, the application the group filed had been incomplete and was rejected for that as well. She added the purpose of no longer allowing groups of more than 50 to gather is an attempt to comply with state orders trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

“It has nothing to do with who they are and what they’re doing,” she said. “This is about trying to follow the mandates.”

The mayor said the village has contacted Suffolk County police as well as state police about the planned march. They have also contacted the Town of Brookhaven, since the 9/11 memorial is technically on town-owned land. She advised that the group should try and communicate with the town instead to devise some kind of ceremony.

A spokesperson for the Setauket Patriots, who asked he not be named because of fear of being outed online, called the village’s decision to not allow any more parades unfair, considering the village has started hosting its Harborfront Park movie nights once again, though these are hosted by the village itself and therefore do not require permits.  

“We’re helping Mr. Dooley, and it’s the only reason we’re having it in Port Jeff.”

— Setauket Patriots

The Setauket Patriots leader reiterated that the planned march was planned to be apolitical. He said it was planned after conversations with Daniel Dooley, a New York City Fire Department lieutenant who helped construct the Port Jeff 9/11 memorial. Dooley normally hosts a vigil at the memorial site to commemorate 9/11. He was also described as a member of the group.

“We’re helping Mr. Dooley, and it’s the only reason we’re having it in Port Jeff,” the Setauket Patriots rep said.

Efforts to contact Dooley went unsuccessful as of press time.

A few other 9/11-based events usually happen within the village to commemorate that fateful day in 2001. The Port Jefferson Fire Department normally hosts its own ceremony, and last year the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America hosted a candlelight vigil in Harborfront Park. 

Tom Totten, the PJ fire district chairman of the fire commissioners, said they plan to host an in-house ceremony that’s not open to the public. Discussions are still ongoing whether the vigil will be recorded or livestreamed.

Other 9/11 events on the North Shore have been postponed or changed to meet the challenges of the pandemic. The usual Setauket Fire Department 9/11 event will not be open to the public and will instead be livestreamed. Other events, like the 9/11 memorial hosted in Shoreham by the Rocky Point Fire Department, are still up in the air.

Members of the Setauket Patriots group also took the lead in several controversial May protests in Commack calling for the end of the COVID-19 shutdowns. Their Facebook normally posts conservative and pro-president news, but their page also shares more posts that could well be described as inciting violence, such as videos of pro-Trump car paraders in Portland, Oregon, driving into and through counterprotesters and spraying them with pepper spray with captions like, “Bear spray is the new bug spray!” 

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The parking lot along Barnum Avenue in Port Jeff is finally coming together. Photo by Kyle Barr

The long awaited Barnum Parking lot finally has shovels in the ground.

Crews started digging up the trees and other shrubs at the corner of Caroline Avenue and Barnum Avenue Aug. 25. The full construction process is expected to take around two months, weather permitting.

The new parking lot includes 46 new spaces oriented diagonally. There is planned to be a one-way ingress and egress onto Caroline Avenue. The site plans show the 32,000-square-foot lot will also include two bioswales bordering the entrance onto Barnum Avenue to aid in flood mitigation. The bioswales will look like two dips in the ground with plantings overlaying them.

The village also plans to include two electric vehicle charging stations just like the two currently in the parking lot next to Rocketship Park. Costs for the charging are paid by the vehicle owner through the Chargepoint app.

Parking and Mobility Administrator Kevin Wood said there will be screening in the form of thick bushes on the south side that will line the entire parking area facing south.

“We are also working on a design that will let the parker know how many spots are available before they even drive into the lot via a small digital system,” Wood said. 

The $814,069 project is funded in part by $200,000 in Suffolk County Jumpstart grant money. The rest comes from a $300,000 bond and $314,069 in parking funds set aside for this project.

In February, Connecticut-based F&F Concrete won the bid against five other companies to create the new parking lot.

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Port Jeff's new contactless parking system allows people to use their phones, either through an app or by tapping to pay. Photo by Kevin Wood

Port Jefferson officials say the village’s new contactless parking kiosks have already shown increased usage in the short time the program has been active.

Port Jeff has been using Honk, a contactless parking payment company, since July 1. The company allows customers to pay for parking in two ways, one by downloading the phone app and the other by tapping their phone or scanning a barcode on a HonkTAP station. 

In a release, the app company said that last week, 1,227 people tapped to pay for parking. Kevin Wood, the village’s parking and mobility administrator, said the tap action accounted for 43% of total parking sessions last week as well. Wood added that the amount of growth they’ve seen so far was primarily because an app is not needed to pay.

“The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need for digitized, touch-free parking payments,” Wood said. “Usage has skyrocketed and our help center has received very positive feedback.”

The technology also allows an option for drivers to receive text reminders when their parking session is set to expire and to add more time to their spot remotely. 

“We’re proud to partner with Port Jefferson, and to help provide a safe, welcoming experience for visitor parking,” said Michael Back, Honk President and CEO in a release. “It’s never been more important for tourist destinations like Port Jefferson to offer easy, touch-free parking payments.”

The village sees an average of 250,000 visitor parking sessions a year, and parking in the village’s more than 600 spots has become one of the most hot button issues for the community, both residents and businesses. The village is planning to soon start construction on a new parking lot on Barnum Avenue next to Caroline Avenue to add 44 new spots. That project is expected to cost a total of $814,069, with an existing $300,000 bond, $200,000 grant and $314,069 in parking funds.


As University Stares Down Barrel of $109 Million Financial Hole, Local Community and Businesses Could See Economic Hurt

Stony Brook University is facing a huge financial hole in 2020, including a loss of students and likely faculty. This could mean many challenges for local industries and businesses who rely on that influx of people. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr, Rita J. Egan and Liam Cooper

Stony Brook University is one of the biggest driving economic engines of the North Shore. Not only does it offer a major learning institution for students all over Long Island, but it has facilitated a large number of housing possibilities for both faculty and students. Those students, meanwhile, are a live force generating sales for local restaurants, bars and shops. 

When SBU students left in campus in March, many didn’t know what would happen in the future. Now that the campus nears the start of the semester, many students have decided they will not be returning. Photo by Kyle Barr

SBU’s announcement that it is facing at least a $109 million hole has sent a shudder through the residential and business side of the surrounding community. It has put yet another stake through the heart of so many economic centers that are already struggling from their own pandemic-related hurt.

Three Village Expects Hardship

Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, recognized the effect Stony Brook University’s financial woes would have not only on Stony Brook Village Center, which WMHO oversees, but also a broader region extending beyond the Three Village area. The shops in Stony Brook are less than five miles from the university.

SBU “is the largest employer on Long Island and that needs to be addressed,” she said. “The fact is the impact is not only going to affect the local community but the Long Island community. The ripple effect will be extraordinary.” 

George Hoffman, 1st vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, echoed Rocchio’s sentiments.  

“Unfortunately, I do think we will see some painful impacts in the community from the university’s dire fiscal situation,” he said. “The hiring freeze will reduce the pool of people buying homes in the area. Canceling the athletic season will hurt the restaurants and pubs. And having three-quarters of the students take courses online instead of on campus, will hurt restaurants and local shops that count on student customers. Stony Brook University has such a regional multiplier effect that their cuts and loss of revenue will reverberate through our area and through the entire Long Island community.”

Jane Taylor, executive director of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said the hope is that any effect on the community would be short lived.

“We’re grateful for the faculty and staff who support our local businesses,” she said. “This is definitely going to have an impact.” 

Impact on Port Jefferson Village

It’s hard to gauge how much business Port Jefferson generates from Stony Brook, though recent efforts to increase the number of students and staff into the village has already been squashed due to COVID-19. The village has been funding everything but the campus-side advertising for the PJ-SBU Shuttle for the past two years. The village was putting up around $20,000 of its funds for the project, while the Port Jeff Business Improvement District also put up $10,000 of its funds to help support the shuttle program.

The shuttle program was canceled due to COVID-19 March 15. Kevin Wood, the village’s parking and mobility administrator, said the shuttle was averaging about 150 riders a weekend before being canceled.

The Port Jefferson, Stony Brook University Shuttle was cancelled this March, though the village hopes to start it up again next year. Photo from Kevin Wood

“We will look to restart it for the spring 2021 semester depending on the state of the COVID-19 and restrictions,” he said in an email. “We will also look to share the expense equally between the village, the BID and SBU.” 

Barbara Ransome, Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce director of operations, said the pandemic has already done such a number on local businesses. She said village businesses are open and are being “respectful and careful” in compliance with New York State regulations, and she hopes those shops that stayed strong will survive, barring another shutdown.

“My gut would say sure, it’s going to affect us,” she said. “The Port Jefferson Village is going to have a deficit — everyone is going to have a deficit. Everything’s going to have a trickle-down effect.”

Impact on Real Estate

Multiple local realtors in the surrounding community said the effect on the housing market surrounding the university is still uncertain, though a loss of students and faculty because of enrollment declines and a hiring freeze could put a damper on the industry.

“The surrounding real estate is yet to be determined,” Port Jefferson-based American Way Real Estate’s David Guzzetta said. 

The number of campus residents has declined by 40%, which could potentially tank the market, he added.

“If demand went down 40%, it would affect local housing by 5 to 10%, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is,” he said. “Anything more than that would be devastating. It sounds like a recession.”

Though there is still time before the school year starts, the Port Jefferson realtor said the deficit could actually be good for the real estate market. 

“It could be the complete opposite,” Guzzetta said. “We won’t know until the semester starts, but students may not feel safe staying in a dorm and therefore want to live in off-campus housing by themselves to feel safer, which would actually boost the local real estate market.”

Frank Edwards, a realtor from Douglas Elliman Real Estate located in East Setauket, said he believes that students will choose to stay on campus.

“These kids aren’t going to be renting homes,” he said.

Whether it be positive or negative, the East Setauket realtor said students will be the main driver in the market.

“I don’t think it’s going to really affect staff as much,” Edwards said. “It’s really going to be driven by the college students. They’re going to take up the on-housing campus too, but COVID may change that.”

Edwards said he believes the market will continue to be sustainable.

“I don’t think it’s going to really affect the real estate market,” he said. “I believe the market will be fine, when houses come up they go quickly in this area. I think we’re in a strong area. I think Three Village is a strong area.”

The uncertainty surrounding the market may come as a result of COVID-19. When the pandemic began, it seemed that the market was going to decline on Long Island, but realtors in the area have actually seen the pandemic being a positive force in the market.

“If you asked me four months ago, I would say we were going into a housing crisis but, believe it or not, Long Island is in a little spike because everyone from Manhattan with income is coming out to Long Island.” Guzzetta said.