Village takes closer look at uptown blight

Village takes closer look at uptown blight

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Study could help officials push along revitalization

One blighted uptown property, the old diner on Main Street, was demolished earlier this year. File photo by Elana Glowatz

An upcoming study of blight along Main Street in uptown Port Jefferson could help the village revitalize the area, according to the officials who set it into motion.

The board of trustees approved the study at a recent meeting, in part to identify properties that potentially could be seized through a process called eminent domain, in which a municipality takes control of land to perform a public benefit and compensates the owner. Although eminent domain is classically used for public works projects like building new roadways or widening existing ones, Village Attorney Brian Egan explained that the Port Jefferson government could use the coming analysis of blight uptown as ammunition to make a case for applying eminent domain to less common purposes.

Seizing blighted properties along Main Street in the village’s troubled uptown area could help officials push along their revitalization efforts there.

Although cleaning up upper Port and creating a more pedestrian-friendly district with both business and residential space has been a priority for some years, progress has been slow. Residents and some local business owners have been calling for improvements as well, citing safety concerns stemming from a roaming homeless population and drug-related crime. One of the more recent and most visible changes to Main Street occurred when the decrepit, crumbling diner — previously known as the Station Diner and the Old Port Diner — was demolished in January, after months of discussion between officials and the property owner. However, a new building has still not been erected in its place.

East Coast-based engineering firm VHB is conducting the blight study. That firm is no stranger to Port Jefferson: In addition to various work around the village, the engineers have completed other projects specifically for the uptown area in the past, including a traffic study that was included in the upper Port revitalization section of the village’s new comprehensive plan.

When the trustees approved the new study on Nov. 2, they specified that it should not take more than 12 weeks to complete.