Tags Posts tagged with "Village of Port Jefferson"

Village of Port Jefferson

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Officials from the Port Jefferson village, chamber and BID joined Teachers Federal Credit Union and hospital heads to accept a $5,000 check allowing more meals to hospital workers. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jeff business organizations have gotten a helping hand from Teachers Federal Credit Union in their quest to bring meals to hospital workers on the front lines of the coronavirus, as well as support restaurants that have seen massive drops in sales since the start of the pandemic.

Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, and Inna Sprague, the chief experience officer of Teachers, joined together in offering a check to the chamber and BID’s program offering meals to hospital workers. Photo by Kyle Barr

Holding a large $5,000 novelty check in front of the PJ Lobster House, Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Inna Sprague, the chief experience officer of Teachers,joined village and hospital officials in accepting the check. It was also a show of how people try to maintain social distancing even in such simple events like a press conference.

“Thank you for thinking of us as your hometown as all of our hometowns are suffering,” Pipe said.

For the past few weeks, Port Jefferson village, the chamber and the Business Improvement District have teamed up to have restaurants supply meals that are shipped to both John T. Mather and St. Charles hospitals. James Luciano, the owner of PJ Lobster House and the BID’s secretary, said they are sending 40 meals to hospital workers at a time on a rotating basis between businesses. Participating businesses include Slurp, Nantuckets, Prohibition Kitchen, Wave Seafood & Steak, Pasta Pasta, The Steam Room, Fifth Season, C’est Cheese, Saghar, The Pie, PJ Lobster House and Salsa Salsa.

The money raised is also partially to help businesses support some of their staff while there are a limited number of customers.

BID and chamber leaders said they have been holding constant meetings alongside village officials to try and keep on top of events.

“The BID and chamber are matching contributions from the restaurant association to help keep these meals moving along,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “We accept any support we can get from partners and our residents to help keep our businesses relevant and open to help feed the front line and also the people who are in need of supplies and meals.”

The chamber has established a Gofundme page at www.gofundme.com/f/help-port-jeff-restaurants-feed-hospital-workers. So far they have raised nearly $6,500.

“The restaurants and shops are the backbone of our community,” Roger Rutherford, the general manager of Roger’s Frigate and BID president said. “When we see partners such as Teachers stepping up it’s a really wonderful thing that helps us sustain and weather the storm.”

The idea of supporting hospitals during the crisis has spread to downtowns all throughout the Island. Sprague said Teachers originally caught on to what Port Jeff and other communities like Patchogue were doing through the Greater Long Island websites. Last week they donated $5,000 to the fundraising efforts in Patchogue. Later this week the credit union plans to donate another $5,000 to restaurants in Bayshore and Babylon.

“Our goal is to continue to support frontline staff who are deemed essential to our society, as well as keep our local businesses employed and functioning and operating,” she said.

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Bob Strong, right, with his grandchildren Brittany and RJ. Photo from Robyn Strong

Former Port Jefferson mayor and longtime active member of the Port Jeff community Bob Strong passed March 15 after complications from lung cancer. He was 83 and died in the community he knew and loved.

Robert Strong with his two children, Robyn and Robert Jr. Photo from Robyn Strong

Strong was mayor for four years from 1995 to 1999, having been a trustee for four years prior to that. Though his stint as village head was relatively short, Strong would have long and lasting impacts on the village, namely his early help incorporating the easternmost part of the village, his creation of the Business Improvement District and him buying the property that would eventually become Harborfront Park. 

Strong was born June 16, 1936, in New York City, the son of Joseph A. and Pauline R. (Manger) Strong. He would attend SUNY Oswego and graduate in 1958. He was a member of the Beta Tau Epsilon fraternity, where he would meet his wife of nearly 50 years, Evelyn Ann (Repasky) Strong. They would have two children, Robyn and Robert Jr.

People who knew them said the two were inseparable, and it was very rare to see one without the other standing by their side. Evelyn passed away in June 2006. 

Robyn Strong said her father was very gregarious, always there for local parties or events.

The couple moved to the Port Jefferson in 1968, where the family quickly ingratiated itself into the community. Though the area was not yet in the Village of Port Jefferson, Strong quickly became known as a leading voice for incorporation. 

About 90 acres on the eastern end of the village was, until the late 1970s, still not a part of the village. Advocates for integration looked to change that. Unlike the village’s original incorporation in 1963, which was formed out of a desire for home rule, this new incorporation came together through a desire for united identity, according to Larry Britt, a former trustee of 11 years who worked alongside Strong once he later became mayor. 

“There was the same school district — all their kids went to school with our kids — and it was a big section of the village that was left out,” he said.

Harold Sheprow, a former Port Jefferson mayor from 1977 to 1985 and again from 1987 to 1991, soon became fast friends, especially because of their shared advocacy to see the village extended out to Crystal Brook Hollow Road. Strong would spend his efforts knocking on doors, advertising for integration and discussing the prospect in meetings. 

Robert Strong was a mayor for 4 years, but had a lasting impact. Photo from Robyn Strong

“It was a big benefit to Port Jefferson,” Sheprow said. 

The village’s longest serving mayor of 12 years would appoint Strong to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Working up from trustee to deputy mayor to mayor, Strong would work on several major projects, two of which are most felt by village residents today, namely purchasing the land near the harbor that would later become Harborfront Park and the creation of the BID.

Back in time, what is now parkland was filled with oil terminals, with the last owned by Mobil, which merged with Exxon in 1999 to become ExxonMobil. Sheprow said he had worked on that project for years, but Strong was the man to finally get it done, having gained financial help from New York State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). Sheprow said the agreement also forced Mobil to clean up any contamination in the ground, which would help set the stage for what came next. 

Britt, who as trustee worked alongside Strong on the project, said the actions he and the board took involved participation from both local government and residents.

“It was a big focus of what we did,” he said. “I think the fact we had great resident participation was a big part of why it went through.”

The mayor to take up the job after Strong was Jeanne Garant, who would help transform the area into the rolling passive park residents and visitors enjoy today.

Caroline Savino, a former village clerk who would work under five separate mayors, said Strong and other past mayors were looking for ways to have the businesses themselves chip in for the betterment of other village storefronts. 

Britt said the creation of the BID has done much for the village, especially as seen in its current incarnation. Lately, BID members have been working with the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce to get meals from restaurants to hospital workers.

“Who could have looked into the future and see what it is today?” Britt said.

Otherwise, those who worked for Strong in an official capacity knew he could be just as kind in and out of the office.

“Bob was a real gentleman easy to work for — really dedicated to the village,” Savino said. 

Not only did she work for him, but she and Strong were also neighbors, where she said they had originally become friends. Despite him becoming mayor, she said it wasn’t hard to work for him, as he was always so courteous. Even after she retired and moved to North Carolina, Strong wouldn’t hesitate to call her and catch up on things.

Strong was also described as religious, having been a principal of the Infant Jesus R.C. Church religious school for two years. Sheprow said Strong never missed a Mass.

When not traipsing around the village, Strong was a middle school social studies educator in the South Country Central School District. He joined the district in 1958 and remained a teacher until 1966 when he became an assistant principal at the middle school. He became chairman of the social studies department, a position he held from 1972 until 1991. Strong was also a student council adviser

Robert Strong was a mayor for 4 years, but had a lasting impact. Photo from Robyn Strong15

Steve Willner, a fellow teacher in the South Country school district knew Strong well, having worked with him for eight years, becoming friends with him in much the same way others have, thanks to his personable attitude.

“He was really highly regarded in the school by both students and faculty members as [someone who was as] professional and personable as possible,” Willner said. 

Friends who knew Strong all mentioned his love of history, both world and U.S., and his ability to talk about current events. Britt remembered having plenty of discussions on politics and world issues.

When one was friends with Strong, they knew it well. Willner said he would invite the man to his son’s wedding and daughter’s bar mitzvah. Even when Willner moved to Florida after retirement, Strong and he would still keep in touch, communicating together up until the time of his death.

When Strong’s wife Evelyn passed in 2006, friends said the former mayor took it hard. 

“He and his wife were very joined together at the hip and never went anywhere without each other,” said Sheprow. “They were very much attached to each other — he never got over when she passed.”

Still people who knew him talked of how he would continue to call them or meet up, whether they were in the area or lived several states away. Robyn said her father and mother were both heavy travelers, having visited all 50 states and all continents, save Asia and Africa.

Robyn said her father was diagnosed with lung cancer 14 months before his death in March, but that he “was a fighter to the very end.” 

Because of the ongoing crisis, the family will not be holding any services at this point, though they are currently developing plans for a memorial in early summer.

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Village Hires Deputy Village Attorney/Prosecutor

Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Port Jefferson village is still moving ahead with its budget agenda, this year seeing a revenue decrease thanks in part to the LIPA settlement reducing the assessed value of the Port Jefferson Power Station.

The Port Jefferson village board held a budget hearing over the Internet, even including a live rendition of the national anthem by Port Jefferson student Nicholas Rodriguez, who played Oliver during the annual Charles Dickens Festival.

However, the new format did not allow for any public comment. This was in accordance with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order suspending portions of the public meeting law due to the coronavirus crisis.

The proposed 2020-21 budget includes $9,992,565 in total appropriations, a 3.19 percent decrease from last year’s amount of $10,310,869. This takes into account a 3.5 percent Increase in the tax rate, a $111,088 decrease in assessed value of the Port Jefferson Power Station, as well as a $145,000 decrease in ambulance charges since that is now handled by the Town of Brookhaven.

“Cutting our budget by over $300,000 was not an easy task,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “In cutting that budget we were effective in consolidating some departments.”

One of the changes she referenced was moving one clerk typist into the position of a retiring typist, at a lower salary, without replacing the original with a new employee. 

As regards other village employees, the village assessor, who was on an hourly rate, has become salaried at $30,000, resulting in an increase of $26,019 from what he was getting paid this last year.

The board is also hiring a full-time internal deputy village attorney as a prosecutor, for a total expense to the village of $102,000. Garant said the board agreed this was needed to help prosecute offenses more effectively, also bringing in more revenue for the courts.

“We were just not getting any real effect as a board,” the mayor said. “We collectively agreed bringing on a staff full time will have more direction over individuals.

Village attorney Brian Egan said this will aid in prosecutions of village code infractions. He added that New York State’s new discovery laws, which require municipalities to present all evidence to the defense within a short time after being charged with a crime, have been difficult on small entities like Port Jeff. The new prosecutor will be in charge of handling that side of things.

“This is to really put an emphasis on our code enforcement to go out and aggressively prosecute code enforcement violations,” Egan said. “Having a full-time deputy village attorney … will benefit [the village] all the time.”

This year, the village is looking to raise $6,451,427 from taxes, a near $50,000 increase from last year.

“Because our LIPA assessment is frozen at a settlement … the assessed value shifts from the power plant to the shoulders of our residents,” Garant said.

In terms of capital projects, there are several on the horizon for the upcoming fiscal year, including building the $795,069 parking lot on Barnum Avenue. There are also plans to renovate the Highlands Boulevard retaining wall in the next two to three months using funds from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York gained through state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). Additionally, the village has gained Suffolk County grants to renovate the bathrooms by Rocketship Park and in the lower floor of Village Hall, to fix lingering issues, make them Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and heat the outside bathrooms so they can be used in the winter. Additionally, an $80,000 drainage project on Longfellow Drive is expected to start this year.

The village has also recently received permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for securing the bluff on East Beach, which has been rapidly eroding over the past several years. The mayor had expected they would need to take out a small bond for that project. Another bonded project will most likely be the digitization of village records at both the building and planning department and the clerk’s department. Such a project may cost upward of $200,000. 

The village currently has a AA bond rating.

The Huntington-based Main St. Board Game Cafe has had to let staff go in the hopes of surviving. They are still selling board games to-go. Photo from Board Game Cafe Facebook

By Kyle Barr and Leah Chiappino

As Monday rolled around this week, and as local businesses were looking to find ways to attract customers during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, a new order handed down by New York State put most of those considerations on hold.

On Monday, March 16, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered many nonessential businesses to shut down, or in the case of restaurants, to lessen foot traffic and only allow takeout orders and deliveries.

PJ Cinemas has closed due to the state’s coronavirus mandates. Photo from Google Maps

“Our primary goal right now is to slow the spread of this virus so that the wave of new infections doesn’t crash our health care system, and everyone agrees social distancing is the best way to do that,” Cuomo said. “I have called on the federal government to implement nationwide protocols, but in their absence, we are taking this on ourselves.”

New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey will all be limiting social meetings of any sort to 50 people. Movie theaters, gyms and casinos were closed starting at 8 p.m. Monday.

The governor also announced restaurants and bars will be closed to sit down service and would need to refocus on takeout.

PJ Cinemas already announced closure until they, “receive further guidance from state, local and federal authorities.” All ticket sales will stay valid until they reopen.

Local elected officials said the restrictions were due to people’s reports that numerous bars had high activity over the weekend, despite warnings.

“We are discussing ways to make sure that it is enforced,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). “We expect bars and restaurants will comply … by and large we’ve had great compliance from people.”

Businesses and local business groups took the news with a mix of understanding and worry. Most understood the reason why the state has taken such drastic measures but could hardly fathom how this might impact them long term. The change could not just mean shuttered businesses for the next few weeks, but permanent closures.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said local businesses are the “lifeblood of the community,” and times such as these require the community to come out in support, whether it’s ordering takeout from restaurants or buying vouchers or gift certificates.

The difficulties will be severe. As people are asked to stay home, some away from work, less will have money to spend. She said service businesses, including plumbers, carpenters and the like, will be hard hit since less have the money to spend.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the PJS/T Chamber president, said local businesses will be hit hard by the state mandates. File Photo

“Businesses need as much positive reinforcement as possible,” Dzvonar said.

She added businesses also often sponsor Little Leagues or other community events, so while the governor’s order is in effect such groups may have to go without for the time being.

Other chamber leaders in the area wrote quickly to members to try and offer assistance. 

Gary Pollakusky, the president of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, said he is especially worried about businesses shutting down permanently. 

“When we look at our small businesses as the lifeblood of our communities, we should be focused on our mom and pop shops, more than ever in this time of need,” he said.

Jane Taylor, the executive director of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said restaurants providing takeout meals is a good bridge until business returns to normal, but, “There is no question that our local businesses and restaurants are going to face challenges.” 

Northport Chamber of Commerce President James Izzo says the impact of the restrictions on the village could be devastating.

“Small businesses especially are trying to keep their [employees] paid, and it’s difficult to do that with no money coming in,” he said.

He added most village restaurants are trying to focus on takeout, removing or making their seating inaccessible. Most are trying to deliver food, which can be expensive.

“There’s two sides to this,” Izzo said. “You have some people who are afraid to come out who need food, need to eat and need supplies, and you have other people that want to come down, but everything is so limited. We have bars, but they don’t serve food, and you can’t have more than 10 people in a space, so that’s a done deal.”

Some boutique stores are open, but most are trying to supplement the lack of foot traffic with online shopping.

Izzo said that the village was quiet with minimal traffic Tuesday afternoon, while Sunday was busy with foot traffic.

“You can’t make a living one day a week,” he said. “We are a seasonal community and businesses depend on this time of the year after a long cold dark winter.”

He said the mood in the village is still hopeful, though uncertain.

“This is uncharted territory and everyone is trying to figure it out day by day,” he said.

Merchants are talking about using vehicles owned by the village to deliver meals to those in need. The chamber is working on providing advertising to businesses for free, to promote their delivery services or online products.

Izzo, a real estate broker, says the impact to his business has been minimal, stating most of his work is done online. Open houses have been slower than usual at this time of year, but not completely dead. However, he is anxious to see what this upcoming weekend will bring, in the wake of the new restrictions.

“This is uncharted territory and everyone is trying to figure it out day by day.”

— James Izzo

“A lot can change in six days, we will have to see what happens,” he said.

Copenhagen Bakery and Cafe has had to close its seating but is still open for takeout. The owner,  Flemming Hansen, says that most of the business is in takeout baked goods, and while the number of customers is down, there has been a steady flow of people purchasing breads and soups.

“So far we’re doing alright,” he said. “We’re taking it day by day.”

He added that cake sales have dropped, as people are not having gatherings.

Neil Goldberg, the owner of Main Street Board Game Café in Huntington, said the restrictions have forced him to lay off the entire staff in hopes of buying time.

“Nobody is going to make any money, it’s just about keeping the doors open,” he said.

The cafe’s purpose normally is to be a place where people can come in, socialize and play board games; however, they have had to eliminate all food services, besides prepackaged drinks and are only selling games.

“It’s not worth it for us to turn the ovens on,” he said.

He added the store had some purchases “from people who realize that they’re going to need more entertainment than just watching TV and watching the news.”

The cafe will offer curbside delivery of games and are looking to offer delivery services within a 15-mile radius in the coming days.

Goldberg said the local village businesses are checking in on each other and sharing advice and ideas.

“There’s no plan for this,” he said. “Nobody has insurance for this, because it doesn’t exist, and all you can do is lean on each other and hope things will improve.”

Despite all of this, Goldberg has seen moments of humanity. On Tuesday, former employees came in and bought games to help the shop stay afloat. Then, a mother, who has a son that plays in a game tournament at the shop, bought $1,000 worth of gift cards.

“That was really moving,” he said. 

Goldberg added the best way to support small businesses during this time is to patronize them as much as possible.

“Gift cards are good because, you will eventually use them and you are essentially providing a no-interest loan to the business that you like,” he said. “Honestly, the best thing that you can do is to stay socially distant so we can get through this quicker. Everything that everybody is doing is just Band-Aids at this point to a large problem, and the best thing for businesses is for things to go back to the way they were.”

Meanwhile, federal officials in the House and Senate are considering an aid bill to help workers. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide free testing, extend the unemployment payment period and offer paid sick leave and emergency leave for workers in companies with 500 or less employees. The latter could exempt companies with 50 or fewer employees if that measure would bankrupt the company.

President Donald Trump (R) has called for a $850 billion aid stimulus to major companies such as airlines impacted by the spread of the virus. The White House has also suggested deferring tax payments and even sending home checks to every American to cushion the blow of being out of work. As of press time, details have been sporadic, and the president’s office has flip-flopped on several initiatives already.

The Village of Port Jefferson declared a state of emergency March 16, after both the state and Suffolk County declared theirs. As of Tuesday, March 17, Village Hall and all village-owned facilities are closed to the public. Further board of trustee meetings will be held remotely, along with the budget presentation that was planned for March 30. The executive order only ends after a further order from the village mayor.

“The only thing we can do is ask residents to continue to support the local businesses.”

— Margot Garant

According to Mayor Margot Garant, the executive order allows code enforcement to enforce the new restrictions on businesses. 

“The only thing we can do is ask residents to continue to support the local businesses,” she said, adding those stores are “going to adapt, they will find means to keep those businesses viable.”

Barbara Ransome, the executive director of the PJ village chamber, said the chamber is working on a social media campaign encouraging takeout pickups and deliveries.

With nobody really able to say how long life will be disrupted because of COVID-19, the true consequences of this loss of business are still unknown. 

“My mother always used to say you can live with anything bad as long as you know it’s not long term, or you see it ending,” Ransome said.

Businesses, she said, are all hedging on when that end finally arrives.

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Devin Rotunno, a native of Port Jeff, is made to wear a mask when she travels outside her room at quarantine in SBU's Southampton campus. Photo from Rotunno

In little more than a week, Port Jefferson native Devin Rotunno’s life has been turned upside down, and though the coronavirus pandemic has impacted many, for students learning overseas, recent events have been dramatic.

Jokingly, Devin Rotunno put up a sign in her dorm at SBU’s Southampton campus noting the number of days she’s been in quarantine. Photo from Rotunno

On Tuesday, March 3, Rotunno was in Florence, Italy, studying fashion among the great Renaissance-era domed cathedrals and aged orange-tile roofed buildings. By late Saturday, March 7, she was back in the U.S., holed up in a small dorm room in Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus. In quarantine, she’s only allowed to go outside her room to go to the bathroom or to pick up her food from the lobby. She is on a floor with two other students, but none are allowed out together at the same time. When out, they must wear a mask at all times.

“If you asked me last week, Tuesday, if I would be leaving, I would have literally thought you were crazy,” she said.

Still, as the days drag by, the 19-year old has had to find ways to fill the time — a full 14 days of quarantine before she’s finally out March 21. Experts have said COVID-19 has a two-week gestation period, and she is among well over 150 people in quarantine in Suffolk County, both mandatory and voluntary.

As a first-year student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, being taught at the Polimoda International Institute of Fashion Design and Marketing in Florence had been an incredible experience. On March 3, Italy had yet to institute its nationwide shutdown, and Rotunno said she had seen people still living their lives as they had just a month before, however with a few more people were being cautious by wearing masks and gloves.

Late Wednesday, March 4, that all changed. Students studying abroad received emails from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security telling them they had to leave and return to the U.S. They were given a day to pack their things and either book flights themselves or take a flight guaranteed by the federal government. When the freshman college student received the news, she was working on a midterm project.

“Our program director — she knew how much we wanted to stay — she was figuring out online classes for us,” Rotunno said.

The students in her class handed in all their assignments, even if they weren’t fully done.

The students boarded a Delta flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport, just around 70 kids from SUNY schools together on the flight. When they landed, instead of being taken through the airport proper, they were led to a hanger where two buses awaited them. The majority went on one bus to SUNY Brockport. The fashion student went on the other bus, where students who said they were self-quarantining were dropped off at Stony Brook University’s main campus, while the rest were taken to the Southampton location, arriving there Saturday, March 7 at 11 p.m.

Devin Rotunno helps kids plant seeds using her Gold Award project Aug. 10, 2018 at the Long Island Explorium on East Broadway in Port Jefferson. File photo by Alex Petroski

She now lives in a suite with two people living in separate dorms across the hall from her. She speaks with them on a group text, but she doesn’t have much communication with them. Most of the time the way she knows they’re there is from hearing them move in their rooms or their feet as they walk down the hall.

“I was joking around with my friends — I was sending them pictures saying, ‘Look, I’m in the Hamptons,’ sending them a picture of the street and cars going by,” she said.

For now, she’s catching up on some Netflix shows and doing work for all her classes which are soon to be hosted online. While some of her basic lectures will likely translate easily enough, some of her classes, which have required draping and sewing, will have to be largely abstracted.

It’s been hard to watch things go on from the inside of quarantine. She said friends had already booked flights to visit her in Florence for spring break, but those plans have been somewhat quashed. When President Donald Trump (R) announced a 30-day travel ban to all European countries save Great Britain and Ireland, she herself panicked as not all her stuff from Italy has yet arrived, but she said she’s received word the rest of her items should be arriving soon.

Despite the initial confusion and anger of being pulled out of Italy with barely enough time to make sure her things were packed and hand in last-minute assignments, she said she understands why this is necessary.

“When everything was on lockdown, it was the right decision,” she said.

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The children's section of the Port Jefferson Free Library. File photo by Heidi Sutton

The Port Jefferson Free Library has closed its doors effective March 13 until further notice due to coronavirus concerns. 

Library Director Tom Donlon announced it late Friday after the library administration and board of trustees came to the decision it was necessary to “protect the health and well being of patrons and staff,” according to an email statement.

The announcement has come after multiple levels of government, including New York State and the White House declared a state of emergencies Thursday and Friday, respectively. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has called for a shutdown of all public gathering of 500 people or more. 

“The library fully appreciates and understands the disappointment and disruption that this action will cause, but finds that it is paramount to preserve to the greatest extent possible the safety of our patrons and staff during this declared state of emergency,” a statement from the library read. 

Patrons will not accrue any late fees on checked-out items while the library is closed.

The statement also asked patrons to consult the library’s website, portjefflibrary.org,  for ongoing developments. Online services including Overdrive, Hoopla and Kanopy are still available from the library’s website.

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Village workers have already started landscaping near the Toast stairway. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Village of Port Jefferson is remaking the path around the stairway near Toast Coffeehouse, though plans are much more subdued than what had been proposed last year.

Village workers have already started landscaping the area at the bottom of the black iron steps, which empty out close to Portside Bar & Grill. Joe Palumbo, the village administrator, said they do not have a site plan or a concept drawing, but the general idea is to beautify the walkway and create much more greenspace. The bottom of the stairs has long been an enclosure of dead grass and tree stumps.

“This is conceptually in the mind,” Palumbo said. “There’s going to be grassy areas along with other plantings.”

Mayor Margot Garant said the cost, ignoring labor, could be around $20,000 when all’s said and done, but lighting costs are still unknown. The village plans for goosenecked lanterns on the stairs and along the pathway, which may include additional accent lighting.

“Internally the guys have been doing a great job, and I’m happy to see they can handle a project of that scale,” she said. 

Last April, the village had received a proposal from Sean Hanley, the husband of Melissa Hanley, who owns Salon Blonde hair stylist just across the street from the top of the staircase. The plans had called for a complete remodeling of the iron staircase into a more modern, concrete staircase and at the bottom create a pocket park, complete with water features and patio.

The problem is, officials said, that plan would have cost around $96,000. 

Instead of tearing up the walkway like under that plan, the village is keeping the same walkway, remodeling the columns at the entrance to the stairway and include an approximated 12-by-12-foot patio. On Monday, March 2, Lisa Harris, who owns several Port Jeff businesses, said she would be donating two benches to the project.

Currently, Palumbo said the issue they’re facing is the large tree just to the right of the stairs bottom. The roots are apparently at a high elevation and run deep underground and restrict extending the blocks that run along the back side of the space to the other side of the path. At the March 2 board meeting, Garant said that tree could not be removed. 

Palumbo said they would have to look at alternatives.

Trustee Bruce Miller said that the current project and other village beautification initiatives will be important as Port Jeff moves along the LIPA settlement glide path, which will see the village getting less in property taxes from the Port Jefferson Power Station over the next several years.

“I just think we got to make this village more attractive if we are losing revenue, we’re going to be charging more or providing less,” he said.

Palumbo said next week they will begin to install irrigation and then after install the patio. They hope to have the plantings and sod installed by spring.

By 2020, the courts at the Port Jefferson Country Club are nearly at the edge of the bluff. Photo by Royce Perera

I have spent my lifetime fighting to protect our land, water and the air we breathe in every few seconds of our lives. So, it was especially meaningful to meet Sapphire Perera, a young person in our community whose deep caring for and connection with our environment has propelled her to play a role in its protection.  

One of Sapphire’s talents is writing, and she uses this skill to spread awareness and inspire others to action. Our local newspaper, TBR News Media, has given Sapphire Perera an opportunity to use the platform of a column in the paper to inform us about environmental issues. This is a good thing because young people can introduce fresh ideas and outlook to environment-related issues and breathe new life into our motivation to protect and improve the environment that sustains us.

— State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket)

By Sapphire Perera

The beauty of the Port Jeff shoreline should not blind us to the growing problem of land erosion. Similar to the fact that the majestic stone figures of Easter Island should not hide the ecological disaster that overcame their island. All over the shores of Port Jeff and Long Island, there are eroding bluffs. While people just see these eroding bluffs as being steep cliffs of sand that can be climbed on, they pose a much greater threat to our environment and to the buildings that line the top of the land. 

In 2012, satellite images show much more room left between the Port Jefferson Country Club’s tennis courts and the bluff.

Ever since 2012, the residents of Port Jeff have been trying to solve the issue of the eroding bluffs. The lack of vegetation and increasing deforestation have only made the erosion worse. To combat this problem, the village has planned on constructing seawalls and barriers and are still waiting for permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. They also hope for Suffolk County to dredge the area surrounding Mount Sinai harbor and return sand to the beaches. Currently, the Town of Brookhaven is in the midst of reconstruction of the jetties at the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor. The jetties had been worn down over time, leaving them not as effective as they used to be, with holes and submerged rocks allowing sand to run over and through. Previous Port Times Record editor Alex Petroski wrote about the eroding bluffs in Port Jeff [“Eroding Port Jeff beach causing concern for village,” June 1, 2017], and his article included pictures of the bluffs of Port Jeff and Belle Terre. In February, my brother Royce Perera captured the image of these bluffs from a similar angle with his drone. If you compare the two pictures and examine the bluffs near the country club, the worsening erosion of the bluffs is clear. Bluff erosion has only gotten worse and without any deterrents or solutions, more land continues to end up on our sandy beaches.

Most recognize the problem but are ignorant of how the erosion of these bluffs has continually gotten worse and how human interaction can increase the rate at which erosion occurs. Many factors contribute to erosion but in recent years, there have been intense storms, strong winds and frequent human interference. While erosion is a natural process, coastal erosion on Long Island’s North Shore has been designated “critical” by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As sand is continually sliding down the bluff to the beach, it is taking away land from the Island. Currently, the Port Jefferson Country Club tennis court is facing this problem because erosion of the bluff has come dangerously close to it. As more and more land disappears from the bluff, there is more of a chance for erosion to occur less stability. 

Sapphire Perera

Personally, when I have visited the beach, I have witnessed young kids and young adults walking up and down the bluffs. While this is perceived as a harmless act, these people are actually acting as catalysts to the process of erosion. The weight of that person pushes down more sand and destroys plants that hold the sand together. Sometimes there is garbage thrown down onto these bluffs which ends up destroying vegetation. Vegetation is one thing that helps maintain the structure of the bluff since it is holding particles together through the roots.

In order to protect the land and preserve the tennis courts at the country club, the Town is inching closer to finalizing reconstructing the jetties with hopes that it will be a barrier against erosion from tides, currents and waves. Other ways that would prevent erosion include the diversion of surface runoff away from the bluff, minimized paved areas that increase runoff and a decrease in additional weight on the bluff edge, such as pools, buildings or storage sheds.

Anthropologists now say that the grandeur of the Easter Island statues exists at a huge cost, namely the permanent destruction of the Island. We in Port Jefferson must learn from others’ mistakes and curb human activity in order to conserve Port Jeff’s beaches, water and land. 

Sapphire Perera is a junior at Port Jefferson high school. This is the first of a planned column series by her called “Turtle Island,” which refers to the Native American mythology about North America existing on the back of a great turtle that bears every living being on its spine.

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Stony Brook’s SAC bus loop is one of the stops of the SBU to Port Jeff shuttle. Village officials say the cost of the project has put it in jeopardy after the end of the spring semester. Photo from Google maps

The jitney service between Port Jefferson and Stony Brook University is back on the menu for the spring and fall semesters, this time with extra funding from the Port Jeff Business Improvement District and a larger price tag.

The Port Jefferson, Stony Brook University Shuttle before the service was contracted out to Suffolk Transportation Inc.. Photo from Kevin Wood

The new service extends the service for an additional two weeks, from 10 to 12, and will run until midnight Fridays and Saturdays. The service also changes one of the pickups at Stony Brook University from the Chemistry Loop to the Hilton Garden Inn.

The BID is putting up $10,000 of its funds for the program, leaving Port Jefferson with just under $20,000 of the bill.

“We are proud to partner with the village in bringing the shuttle service back to our Business District,” said Roger Rutherford, BID president, in an online release.

At the Feb. 18 village board meeting, parking administrator Kevin Wood was seeking $24,608 in funds, per semester, to continue the PJ/SBU Shuttle for the next spring and fall semesters. The program is paid through parking meter funds.

However, Michelle Ferrante, senior account clerk, pointed out that any contract over $20,000 the village signs onto must go out to BID. This wouldn’t be a problem if the village were using its own jitney bus, however, the board voted last year to contract out to Bay Shore-based Suffolk Transportation Service, mainly due to the previous bus lack of Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and the overall failing quality of the previous vehicle. 

The village has also lacked other intervillage public transit options since the BID-run program with Qwik Ride ended. Officials said those small cars had not done the job they needed them to do, rarely being there for people who requested them, and drivers were taking requests from people outside the village to make tips. 

At the meeting, questions were raised whether the Suffolk Transportation was a sole source provider, and if it provides transportation services for Suffolk County.

According to its website, the company operates with Suffolk County public transit under the name Suffolk Bus Corp. The company also operates the paratransit buses, known as Suffolk County Accessible Transit, which ferry disabled people on select routes across the county.

The village board agreed to approve the funds for this spring semester if Wood could keep the budget for the jitney service under $20,000, which meant cutting the number of weeks and hours it ran for.

The program will come under review again come the start of the fall semester.

Wood said the university would not currently consider helping to pay for the program, but said he has plans for the future, including possibly surveying riders and asking where they shopped or dined.

“The program will gain popularity and ridership and, therefore, success,” he said. “We may test run a pay by cellphone so that students also have a contribution to this wonderful service. We would expect rates to be well below any alternative mobility.

Although officials have praised the program for bringing in more people sans cars into the village, Garant said she has questioned the cost of the program, especially since Port Jeff started to contract with an outside company. She said adding extra days and weeks to the program has only exacerbated those costs, and she doubts either the BID or university will either be able or willing to pick up the majority of the tab long term.

“Honestly, the program is in jeopardy in the fall,” she said.” The mayor added she has asked Wood to look into different transit companies or into the village purchasing its own two new jitney buses.  

The new schedule is Thursdays from 3 to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The bus stops at Student Activities Center Loop, Hilton Garden Inn, Chapin Apartments, Wild by Nature Market parking lot, Port Jefferson village on Arden Street and Port Jeff train station.

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The site of the planned parking lot on Barnum Avenue. File photo by Kyle Barr

The Village of Port Jefferson finally has an amount attached to plans for the Barnum Avenue parking lot, coming in lower than had been initially anticipated.

The winning bid for the Barnum parking lot was approved at the Feb. 18 village board meeting, showing Connecticut-based F&F Concrete saying it can do the project at $795,069. The company won out over five separate bids. 

At the same meeting, the board approved the $200,000 in jumpstart grant from Suffolk County that was originally announced last year. Unlike other kinds of grants, Mayor Margot Garant said, the jumpstart funds become immediately available after they are approved.

While all the money is now there for the lot, officials said the village is waiting on the grant to finalize, with the
village needing to show before shovels go in
the ground.

“Ideally, the village would like the project to start as soon as possible so that the lot would be open for our peak season, but that timing has a few factors to consider including but not limited to the weather, execution of the contract, insurance being satisfactory and all county grant requirements being met,” said Joe Palumbo, the village administrator in an email.

With the grant funds, the village administrator said Port Jefferson will be using approximately $600,000 from parking meter revenue. Garant said the parking capital account currently amounts to $800,000. At the end of every year, unspent revenue from the account that’s not used for salaries and other upkeep ends up in the capital account. 

“We have that money in place,” Garant said.

Though village officials had originally anticipated the project would come in at around $900,000, officials were pleasantly surprised to see the winning bid came in somewhat under that amount. 

The parking lot is expected to contain 44 new spots, located off Barnum Avenue and east of the Joe Erland baseball field. Based on residents feedback, the two-way ingress and egress planned on
Caroline Avenue have been made one-way. Surrounding plantings have also been bolstered, but the 32,000-square-foot lot will still include two electric car charging stations and two bioswales bordering the foot entrance onto Barnum Avenue to aid in flood mitigation. Once constructed, the bioswales will look like two dips in the ground with plantings overlaying them. Port Jefferson grant writer Nicole Christian had said those plantings and green initiatives were a large reason the county provided the village the $200,000 grant.