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Charles Lefkowitz

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Jane Taylor, third from left, with some of her fellow board of trustee members at the Sept. 26 Three Village Chamber of Commerce meeting. Pictured with Taylor is John Tsunis, Michael Ardolino, Colette Frey-Bitzas, Elizabeth Miastkowski, Gloria Rocchio, Charles Lefkowitz, Andy Polan, Ron LaVita, Leah Dunaief, Billy Williams, Carmine Inserra and the Hon. Howard Bergson, who swore in the members. Photo from Three Village Chamber of Commerce

The Three Village Chamber of Commerce welcomed a new executive director at the beginning of September.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor congratulates Jane Taylor on being chosen as Three Village Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year in June. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Jane Taylor, who retired in June as assistant head of The Stony Brook School, has taken on the leadership role. The position has been vacant since David Woods’ retirement last year. Taylor has been involved with the chamber for 20 years and a member of the board for more than five. In June, she was named Three Village Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year.

Charles Lefkowitz, first vice president of the chamber, said Taylor is the “last part of the puzzle for the reorganization of the chamber.” Over the last few years, he said the chamber has been undergoing a reorganization that has included planning events 12 months in advance and changing how they arrange networking activities to allow for more mingling.

“Jane Taylor is an outstanding selection for the executive director for the Three Village chamber, and she comes with a wealth of community involvement and knowledge of the Three Village area,” Lefkowitz said.

Taylor’s association with the organization came about when she first started at The Stony Brook School. She said she felt it was vital to network with community members to talk about issues and connect with local vendors.

“I felt it was an organization that was committed to the community and was something that was built on the importance of developing relationships,” she said.

When Taylor, who grew up in Pittsburgh, first moved to the Three Village area with her husband, Robert, 45 years ago, she started working at the school as a physical education teacher and coach. Taylor said when she started she was able to connect with the local athletic communities including Ward Melville and Port Jefferson.

“The local business community is one of the key elements that make a community healthy and vibrant.”

— Jane Taylor

“I realized that people really cared about this place and wanted me to be successful even though we were competing against these schools,” she said.

Taylor said her new responsibilities as executive director of the chamber include working with the board identifying goals for the coming year, making sure the e-newsletter is posted, building membership, visiting businesses and not-for-profits in the community, maintaining communication and “whatever needs to be done.”

She said she feels local businesses play an important role in communities, covering everything from when a baseball team needs a sponsor to who is hosting the Christmas parade.

“The local business community is one of the key elements that make a community healthy and vibrant,” she said, adding that she looks forward to helping local businesses grow.

Taylor lives with her husband in Stony Brook, has two grown children and two grandchildren. She said she has learned to juggle a lot in the past and looks forward to her new responsibilities.

“You just take what’s in front of you, put one foot in front of the other and assume the goodwill of everybody,” Taylor said.

Charles Lefkowitz, right, one of the co-founders of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, presents an award to state Assemblyman Steve Englebright, center, along with George Hoffman, left, another founding member of the task force. Photo by Maria Hoffman

By Anthony Frasca

When he noticed there were issues with the cleanliness of Setauket Harbor, Charles Lefkowitz took matters into his own hands. A founding member of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, Lefkowitz has become an advocate for attention to the harbor.

“Nobody was doing anything and it was just deteriorating until Charlie and a bunch of us got together and said this harbor needs a group of people that will start advocating for its improvement,” said George Hoffman, also a founding member of the task force and a vice president of the Three Village Civic Association.

By forming the task force to call attention to the issues regarding the cleanliness of the harbor, such as roadway runoff, the group was able to procure a $1 million dollar grant in state funding with the help of state Senator John Flanagan (R-East Northport). The task force was also appointed to the Long Island Sound Study, a cooperative multistate effort to improve the water quality of Long Island Sound, in existence since 1985.

“As a founding member of the Setauket Harbor Task Force he has involved himself from the very beginning,” said state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who has attended numerous task force meetings. “He has made time out of his very busy schedule to attend meetings, sometimes in the middle of a workday. He very often offers some of the most sage advice around the table. This is worth noting and saying thank you to Charlie for being part of the individual glue that holds our community together. It speaks to a level of sincerity of love of the community and serves as an example of what it means to be a community leader.”

Once an elected official in the Town of Brookhaven, Lefkowitz continues to involve himself with numerous community issues and advocacy groups in addition to the task force.

“He’s a former town councilman and his involvement in our community and to our town continues,” Englebright said. “If anything he is even more effective now because he is unshackled from politics, and he is able to express his commitment to making our community even better.”

“The subtle side of Charlie is that he is the owner of the Stop & Shop [shopping center] on Route 25A, and I’ve seen him outside pulling weeds out of the flower beds. That’s an indication of the level of detail he’s willing to invest himself in.”

— Steve Englebright

Hoffman said Lefkowitz is vice president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and has reinvigorated the chamber by recruiting new people, broadening the chamber’s focus and making it more representative locally.

“Charlie is responsible for reinventing the chamber of commerce,” Hoffman said. “He is a driving force in keeping the group together and focused.”

Lefkowitz was also involved in the community visioning committees for the re-examination of the zoning along the Route 25A corridor in the Three Village area. Drivers along the state road in the vicinity of the Ridgeway Plaza Shopping Center can sometimes see Lefkowitz tending to the flower beds that are planted every spring.

“The subtle side of Charlie is that he is the owner of the Stop & Shop [shopping center] on Route 25A, and I’ve seen him outside pulling weeds out of the flower beds,” Englebright said. “That’s an indication of the level of detail he’s willing to invest himself in.”

Lefkowitz’s influence also extends beyond the Three Village area, according to Hoffman.

“He is a visionary on land use issues especially upper Port Jefferson in terms of its commercial viability,” Hoffman said. “He is also an advocate for electrification of the Port Jefferson branch of the Long Island Rail Road. He focuses on how to make it happen and for the first time we are seeing progress.”

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she has worked on various projects with Lefkowitz, and he is currently working with the town on implementing aspects of the Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study on some of his properties.

“As a former councilman, chamber vice president, business owner and resident, Charlie has a unique perspective of our community,” Cartright said. “Charlie’s knowledge of real estate and of the history of the Three Village area was a valuable addition to the community forums my office held while working on the Route 25A-Three Village area corridor community visioning report this past year. The award of Person of the Year is well deserved by Charlie, and I look forward to seeing him continue to work with residents on community projects.”

Three Village Chamber of Commerce executive director, David Woods, has been a member of the organization for nearly 10 years. Photo from David Woods

By Jenna Lennon

During his time with the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, executive director David Woods is most proud of the new signs welcoming people to the Three Villages and Stony Brook University, placed around the community and  along Nicolls Road.

“Before they went up, I can remember, for example, one of the former directors of the university hospital was talking at one of the chamber meetings, and he said that it had taken him an hour and a half to get from the airport to the university,” Woods said in a phone interview.

The former university hospital director flew into the airport in Islip, just twenty or so minutes from Stony Brook, but he drove around for another hour trying to find the university and its community, according to Woods.

“One of the things that I never would have thought of is putting up a sign like that because in the days where I first came to the community to work for the university, there was a sort of invisible fence between the campus and the community,” Woods said. “There would have been opposition. And those beautiful signs have helped a lot.”

Now after nearly 10 years with the chamber, Woods is retiring on June 30 at the end of the organization’s fiscal year.

Charles Lefkowitz, vice president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, worked with Woods nearly his entire time with the chamber.

Woods has “a unique style and passion to bring the business community together. He was never afraid to try something new or even borderline what would be deemed outrageous,” Lefkowitz said.

Woods started with the chamber after retiring from the “regular work world” and having just finished his novel “Buffalo Snow Day” — “a sort of comic novel about Buffalo turning into Aspen.”

Woods spent 17 years as assistant to the president at Stony Brook University. For 20 years after that, he worked in Manhattan “in marketing communications as secretary of the New York City Press Club, the Deadline Club, doing things like introducing the hit board game Pictionary and then an unknown new radio talk show host, now for better or worse a household name, Rush Limbaugh.”

When the chamber needed a manager, they called Woods.

“It was, still is, a great job because we were sitting here like ships passing in the night, our historic community on one side of the railroad tracks, Stony Brook University making new history on the other side and convergence clearly needed,” Woods said. “Since then, leaders on both sides of the tracks have been bringing our two worlds together and doing a lot of it at the monthly chamber meetings.”

Andy Polan, chamber president alongside Woods for the last four years said Woods’ “historical knowledge of the community is pretty amazing from the university to the local history.”

Polan is looking to fill the vacancy with someone who is outgoing, social media-savvy and “interested in developing the chamber to grow to our next level.”

Woods and his wife, Desiree, are taking some time off to go upstate to his hometown of Dunkirk on Lake Erie with their daughter and granddaughter for a family reunion.

Woods will keep in contact with the chamber and continue to support the new director for the upcoming 18th annual chamber beach barbecue, a networking event in July.

For now, Lefkowitz will miss Woods’ “smile and grin at the other side of the table.”

Interested applicants for the executive director position with the Three Village Chamber of Commerce should send their resumes to jobs@backofficemail.com.

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