Port Jeff park renamed for former mayor

Former Port Jefferson Mayor Jeanne Garant, right, is Former Port Jefferson Mayor Jeanne Garant, right, is congratulated by local elected officials after a ceremony where the park was dedicated. (Sept. 4, 2013) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Public officials praised Port Jefferson residents Wednesday for supporting efforts to create a village park at the site of a former Mobil gas depot.

The decades-long effort to purchase and renovate the 5.5-acre property was recalled at a ceremony christening the renamed Mayor Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park. Garant, who was mayor from 1999 to 2005, was credited with leading efforts to design the park and secure funding for the project.

The site, which had been abandoned by Mobil Oil in the 1960s, was purchased by the village for $1.7 million after voters approved a 1997 bond referendum. Voters had defeated a proposal to buy the land in the 1980s.

After more than 100 meetings, a 60-member committee of residents and officials released a master plan in 2000 that recommended a park featuring an ice-skating rink, playgrounds and walkways overlooking Port Jefferson Harbor.

"It belongs to the village," Garant said Wednesday. "It was designed by the village."

Park construction cost about $10 million and was partially offset by $6 million in state grants, said Mayor Margot Garant, daughter of the former mayor. She described the park as Port Jefferson's "crown jewel."

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Among the new features are a three-story Village Center built in the converted, century-old Bayles Shipyard building. The center includes meeting rooms, spaces for after school programs and art exhibits -- on display Wednesday were photos of village residents' pets -- and a couch-filled "living room" with a view of the harbor.

The ice rink -- opened each winter for the past decade in a parking lot outside the village center -- generated $80,000 in village revenue last winter, the mayor said.

The property had been a "disgrace. . . . It's just beautiful now," said lifelong village resident Kevin Bolier, who visits the park daily. "I think all the residents love it."

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