Reinventing Jefferson Plaza | TBR News Media

Local leaders weighed in on the proposed redevelopment project at Jefferson Plaza on Route 112, south of Hallock Avenue in Port Jeff Station.

Empty display cases are a recurring problem for the PJ Station community. Photo by Raymond Janis

The place is owned by Staller Associates, a commercial real estate company based in Hauppauge. Staller intends to make a significant investment to redevelop this mall, according to Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association management. According to the current plan, the square will be zoned commercial and residential. TBR News Media was unable to reach a representative of Staller Associates for this story.

Edward Garboski, new president of the PJSTCA, said a plan to revitalize the square had been in the works for nearly a decade. Since its approval, this plan has mostly remained dormant until recently.

“More than eight years ago, we did a comprehensive study to create a transit-oriented neighborhood,” Garboski said. “We presented it to the City [of Brookhaven]. They accepted it and it kind of sat on a shelf somewhere. We’ve been working on it behind the scenes, but until we get a new adviser now, it’s really pushed.

Brookhaven Council Member Jonathan Kornreich (D) is leading the initiative through City Hall. According to Kornreich, the redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza will help revitalize the neighborhood.

“Redevelopment of a site like this is really going to be vital to the rebirth of the Port Jefferson station area,” he said. “As far as the city is concerned, in order to encourage the redevelopment of sites like this, a new code has been created to encourage the redevelopment of these types of properties.”

Kornreich said the city code change will allow residential housing to be built in the plaza. He added that this change will also promote the inclusion of people with disabilities.

“It’s going to create a greater diversity of housing options, which is very important for people who are getting older and for young people who are just starting out,” he said. “In addition, there will be a significant portion of the residential units there that will be dedicated to people with disabilities.” He added: “Having a supportive environment for them that is also walkable will be very valuable to the community as a whole.”

Kornreich believes the Jefferson Plaza project will reduce traffic congestion, a problem for Port Jeff Station.

“Residential development generates less traffic than commercial development,” Kornreich said. “When you have a residential unit, people come and go once or twice a day. That same place, if it’s a commercial development, is going to have 30, 40, 60 people an hour coming in and out.

Local leaders have expressed optimism that the community of Port Jeff Station may soon be connected to one of the neighboring sewer districts. The map above shows the geographic areas currently covered by sewers. Permission to use the data has been granted by Suffolk County Department of Information Technology, GIS Division. Map generated by Raymond Janis

The additional step of adding a sewer extension is critical to the completion of this project. According to Salvatore Pitti, outgoing president and incoming vice president of PJSTCA, without a sewer line, the redevelopment of the square will not be possible.

“One of our big problems here is also the sewers,” Pitti said. “If we don’t get sewers, none of these restaurants or buildings will ever be able to function. We are currently in talks with Suffolk County to try to install sewers here.

Pitti proposed several possible sewage plant locations to which Jefferson Plaza could be attached in the future. He said the most ideal scenario would be to connect the area to the Tallmadge Woods sewer district.

“What we’re pushing is hopefully the Mount Sinai sewage treatment plant, which is Tallmadge,” Pitti said. “Suffolk County is in talks with the city to supposedly try to expand this sewage plant [to cover more area]but it’s another two-year project before we even know if it will work or not.

Another important question will be where to place the Port Jefferson Station Post Office, which is currently located in the plaza. According to Garboski, the post office is under federal lease until 2024, when construction can begin. “They have a lease,” he said. “The lease is for a few more years and there are other options for the location of the post office.”

Pitti added, “It’s more of a federal thing that’s out of our hands.”

According to Pitti, the businesses currently occupying the plaza are staples with longstanding ties to the Port Jefferson station community. He said it will be a challenge moving forward to meet both developer goals and the interests of business owners who fill those storefronts and who may want to stay.

“I mean, it’s a company that [the developer] must work with the [current tenants] if they want to stay there or if they don’t want to stay,” Pitti said. “Honestly, I think they’re going to pretty much level the place and start building because, tax-wise, I don’t think it makes much sense to go half-and-half.” He added: “We asked the [developer] do our best to keep them in our community. Whether that happens or not is unfortunately between him and the [business] owners.”

According to Garboski, the developers are “seeking to implement […] about $100 million in this project. This will be a boost for the local economy. They are serious, they put a lot of money into it.

He said this type of private investment in the local economy is what the region needs to counter its gradual decline and will encourage other property developers to join in.

“It’s the first project that’s going to be revitalized and when it does, it will set a precedent for the rest of the street and the rest of the developers,” Garboski said.

Although such projects always seem to receive some form of local opposition, Kornreich believes the community will soon notice the positive impact of the Port Jefferson Plaza redevelopment.

“People sometimes get nervous when new projects come up,” the board member said. “I’ve never seen a project that was universally loved from day one, but generally once things are built and people see it and they realize the positive change it has on the community, people tend to like it most of the time.”