There was a lot of attention given to Upper Port Jefferson in 2012 but will the plans officials have come to fruition in 2013?
Traditionally the area covers the business district along Main Street between the Long Island Railroad and North Country Road but it also encompasses a swath from Texaco Avenue to Oakland Avenue to the east and west.
Officals, residents and business owners all has a voice in the debate over what to do with the area, some louder than others.
A revitalization plan promised by the village of Port Jefferson for the area gained clearer focus at the beginning of the year. Michael Schwarting and Frances Campani, architects and village residents, presented a proposal that studied the area and proposed architectural and zoning changes to the village board back in February. A traffic study was then conducted and the entire plan, according to a recent report, is still on track.
In the meantime, that is within the area encompassed by the revitalization plan.
Many locals are concerned that the multi-family apartment complex will represent another attempt to install workforce-type housing on a site in the area. While developers said that the apartments will be marketed to professionals, like Stony Brook University professors, graduate students and medical personnel from St. Charles and Mather hospitals, the proposed apartment complex still bothers many who live in the Comsewogue School District.
Students living south of North Country Road attend Comsewogue, even though the property is within the village of Port Jefferson. This, according to many opponents, puts undue strain on the district. They complain their concerns fall on deaf ears and that the district is not included in the details of the proposed revitalization plan.
Crime has also been a major issue in 2012. Complaints from residents and business owners say that the area is a sort of no-man’s land, ignored by the village and Suffolk County Police. Stabbings, fights and assaults are frequent and homeless people loiter around the businesses and the Long Island Railroad station.
Community members have expressed their frustration with lack of security and fear when they drive through or visit the area.
Talk of establishing a Neighborhood Watch in the area sparked some debate but no consensus on the idea. Meanwhile, crimes like graffiti, drug use and robberies still go on. La Paz, a bar in the area has attracted negative attention because of the frequent fights.
Pax Christi, a local homeless shelter for young men near the Long Island Railroad run by Hope House, has also been the target of criticism.
People have said it attracts the wrong element who come to Upper Port Jefferson looking to get a place to stay, some drunk or on drugs. When turned away they end up wandering the streets of Port Jefferson. The chairman of Hope House, Charlie Russo, an attorney from Belle Terre, addressed the public last January, sharing startling facts about increasing homelessness on Long Island and trying to dispell myths about how Hope House handles its residents.
During the meeting Russo faced public criticism about the program. In the ensuing months, the village has met with Suffolk County officials and the organization to address the problem.
The village also responded. In February, it announced that the village constables were making an effort to meet every train that came into the station and walking the platform to help bolster the security in the area.
Criminals and vangrants drift back and forth across the railroad tracks on Route 112 (Main Street) making it a necessity that the village work with Port Jefferson Station residents on any solution.
A Hub Study, launched by the Port Jefferson-Terryville Civic Association will address the area around Route 112 south of the Long Island Railroad. The planners are also working with architect Michael Schwarting, who is working on the Port Jefferson village revitilization plan for Upper Port Jefferson since the two areas are congruous. The Hub Study is expected to begin in February of this year.
Many are hopeful that the planning and extra attention paid to the area will help change things. Others are skeptical. In the coming year there will be debate and conversation around Upper Port Jefferson as plans move forward but to what end? Will the area be free of the crime and vagrancies that plague it now? Will the rezoning and planning help to transform this community?
We're curious about where you see Upper Port Jefferson heading this upcoming year. How do you think will it fare in 2013? What do you want to see done? What would you like to be able to do there in a year that you can't do now?