Port Jefferson looks to reshape waterfront

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There's no funding yet, but no matter -- Port Jefferson is thinking about the future, and ways to reshape its waterfront.

The village's prize asset is its picturesque harbor, a point driven home at a community meeting last week on the "Re-Imagine The Waterfront" initiative.

As architect Michael Schwarting presented ideas for the harbor, the ferry terminal, Main Street and perennial parking issues to about 40 residents gathered at the waterfront village center, strollers outside took advantage of the spectacular sunset over the harbor.

The village center itself was built in 2005 during an earlier phase of waterfront design, said resident Theresa Eberling.

"This was originally an oil terminal, and there was a lot of skepticism about turning it into a park," she said. "Things have turned out really good."

In conjunction with the Town of Brookhaven, Port Jefferson received a $47,500 state grant last year, matched by the village and town. The money was used to analyze ways to make the waterfront greener and more accessible to the public. Brookhaven owns the harborfront park property in Port Jefferson.

Among the more radical ideas Schwarting presented was elevating the terminal above an extended pier, with vehicle traffic passing underneath the building. Any change in the terminal's location, though, would be a "very delicate operation" that would involve many factors, Schwarting said.

Another idea to solve the village's parking woes called for a 435-car capacity automated parking garage at a cost of $16.5 million.

A proposal to revise parking on Main Street to ease traffic flow was embraced by village Mayor Margot Garant. "I'm definitely going for eliminating parking on the east side of Main Street," she said after the meeting.

Port Jefferson has no sources of funding yet, though the cost of any joint projects with Brookhaven would be shared with the town. Town Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, who represents the village area, said he's awaiting a final vision from Schwarting. "There's a lot of flux," he said of the ideas.

Village grant manager Bob Tumilowicz pointed out that the ferry terminal renovations could be funded by federal money, because the ferry is considered interstate travel.

Further analysis and community input is required, Tumilowicz said. "Let's plan for tomorrow, and hope we're in better shape economically," he said.

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