Village of Port Jefferson

(Left to right) Trustee Rebecca Kassay, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden, Mayor Margot Garant, Trustee Stan Loucks and Trustee-elect Lauren Sheprow. Right photo courtesy Sheprow, all others from the Port Jefferson Village website

The Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees will undergo a major shakeup next week as Bruce Miller leaves the board.

Miller, who has served since 2014, was unseated in last week’s village election after an unsuccessful bid for a fifth term. His seat will be filled by Lauren Sheprow. 

Bruce Miller, above, leaves office next week after eight years on the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees.
Photo from village website

As Miller transitions out of village government, his colleagues weighed in on his legacy of service to the village. In a series of emailed statements, Mayor Margot Garant and trustees took the opportunity to describe their many takeaways from Miller’s time in office. 

The mayor, under whose administration Miller served during the entirety of his tenure as a trustee, highlighted several initiatives Miller had championed through the village government.

“Bruce’s vision for a better Port Jefferson brought us to the table on many big issues, including the repowering of our power plant, getting a better ride on the Long Island Rail Road, and reducing energy costs for those who live both in Port Jefferson and beyond,” Garant said. “He should be commended on every level for his selfless contribution, and I wish him all the best in his retirement years ahead, spending many more days visiting his daughter and doing the things he loves.”

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden praised Miller for the innovative ideas and problem-solving skills that he brought to the village board. According to her, his creative approach is best illustrated by his taste in architecture.

“My first memory of Bruce was with his work on the Architectural Review Committee and his ideas on Victorian-style exterior design,” she said. “He always brought an interesting perspective to issues and it’s been a pleasure working with him. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Trustee Stan Loucks, who has also served alongside Miller for eight years, emphasized that Miller’s service to the community long predates his time as trustee.

“It should be obvious to everyone that Bruce Miller has been, and still is, dedicated to servicing the village of Port Jefferson,” Loucks said. “His many years on the school board and the eight years he served as a trustee are proof of that.” He added, “There is a saying, ‘All good things come to an end.’ I feel that Bruce was one of those good things. I wish him the best going forward — good health and happiness.”

Trustee Rebecca Kassay, who will remain on the board for another term, also acknowledged Miller’s contributions to the school district. She added that she hopes to continue to tap into Miller’s wealth of experience moving forward.

“Trustee Miller has garnered invaluable institutional knowledge from his years of service, not only on the Board of Trustees, but also from his years on the board of education,” she said. “I appreciate his perspectives and look forward to continuing a dialogue with him to help inform future village decisions.”

Sheprow commented on the lessons she takes away from her predecessor’s decades of public service in and around the village. 

“Bruce Miller has been contributing time and talent to the Village of Port Jefferson — and before that to the Port Jefferson School District — for close to two decades,” the trustee-elect said, adding, “He deserves a great deal of respect for all he has contributed and I applaud him for his dedication. He is a role model for public service to be emulated in the Village of Port Jefferson and I hope others will follow in his footsteps and get involved as he has for the betterment of this community.”

Sheprow will be seated officially after a formal swearing-in ceremony held on Monday, July 4, at Village Hall. This will conclude Miller’s eight-year tenure on the village board. 

To read about Miller’s biggest takeaway from his time in office, see the TBR News Media June 30 story, “A legacy of service: Bruce Miller reflects upon his tenure as Port Jeff Village trustee.”

After eight years of service on the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees, Bruce Miller will leave office. File photo

After eight years of service on the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees, Bruce Miller will leave office after this week.

Miller, who unsuccessfully sought a fifth term as trustee in this year’s election, will leave office on July 4. He will be succeeded by Lauren Sheprow. 

In an exclusive interview with Miller, the outgoing trustee reflected upon his time in village government, his greatest challenges and his hopes for the future.

Miller congratulated the winners of the race, saying, “I would like to congratulate the two people that did win, Rebecca [Kassay] and Lauren. I hope they will do good things for the village.” He added, “Obviously, I’m disappointed that I didn’t place in the necessary top two, so I’ll be looking for other things to do. Any assistance that I can provide to the new trustees or the mayor or anyone else associated with the village government, I would be glad to provide.”

Writing his own story

Miller highlighted several projects that he believes represent the core of his contribution to the village. He said the projects he focused on were those that required long-term vision, carried out over many years.

“Certain things take a long time to accomplish,” he said. “With the green energy aggregated solar, we had to get laws passed in order to have it permitted on Long Island as LIPA resisted.” Miller added that the village could sign up for this program right now, which would reduce utility costs for village ratepayers. 

‘I worked in areas kind of on my own. I made my own story.’

— Bruce Miller

The Long Island Rail Road was another trademark issue for Miller. He believes that after years of persistence, funds are finally being made available to improve the rider experience and expedite services. “The money is there,” the retiring trustee said. “There’s $10 billion coming to the MTA and we need to work with our legislatures to ensure that we get a piece of that.” He added, “In the Army we used to have the expression, KISS: Keep it simple, stupid. To the Long Island Rail Road, I would say just streamline this thing and do what you have to do to get us a better ride.”

Miller will be leaving office with “some ideas on the drawing board.” He said that if he had been reelected, he would have explored the possibility of annexing the Lawrence Aviation property and the houses between the property and Sheep Pasture Road.

“There’s 40 acres of open space there where we could declare parkland,” he said. “That would resolve a lot of issues that we have.”

Another idea Miller had was to consider the possibility of constructing underground parking in the Dutch model. 

Working as a trustee, Miller said he encountered numerous difficulties along the way. A contrarian and independent voice, Miller said he was often in the minority on many of the major issues.

“I was a minority trustee,” he said. “It’s a very low-leverage situation. I tried to be supportive of the mayor and the priorities of the majority, but in some cases I could not do that and resisted a lot of that.” He continued, “I worked in areas kind of on my own. I made my own story.”

Tradition vs. transformation

Miller said that while much of the village’s character remains unchanged since his first term, the village has undergone some profound changes, most noticeably in Upper Port.

“If you look at the four blocks south of Sheep Pasture and North Country Road, there’s change going on there and there will be a lot more,” Miller said, adding, “The area was pretty blighted and the people who owned the property there allowed it to deteriorate in order to extract consideration for larger zoning, which they got.”

Miller also acknowledged that much of the development in Upper Port is made possible through Industrial Development Agency subsidies, “which means the apartments pay very little taxes, so there’s a great incentive for building and not much desire on the part of the developers to give back,” he said.

One area Miller had hoped developers could compromise on was architecture, which he believes should reflect the New England and maritime traditions of the community and create a sense of continuity between uptown and downtown. 

“I had advocated that we use a Victorian, maritime kind of architectural structure on these buildings to tie them in with the downtown, so that we are one village,” he said, adding, “Making a village of quality is of interest to the residents because it improves their property values and their sense of being.”

Miller said he understands the sense of urgency to develop those areas. However, he still believes the developments should be guided by greater oversight from the village. “We’re not looking toward the future in terms of developing an ambiance that is on a par with Cold Spring Harbor or Southampton,” he said.

Leaving office

Miller’s message to the incoming board is to keep his priorities in mind as they are important. Aside from the duties that preoccupy board members from day to day, he said considerable forethought and long-term planning are also necessary.

“There’s a lot that goes on in the village that needs to get done, but we need to get beyond that and make substantial improvements in what we’re focusing on,” he said. “I would hope that they would pick up some of these issues that I had started with.”

He also asked that the trustees and the Planning Board apply greater pressure to real estate developers, who “are getting an extraordinary deal.” 

Miller said he favors the construction of condominiums over one-bedroom apartments, which he says can also help offset declining student enrollment in the school district.

When asked if he had any regrets about his time in village government, he replied, “No, I don’t have any regrets. I really see this as a calling and it improves me. I like to contribute. I enjoy putting my energy and creativity into enterprises benefiting the community, and I will continue to do so.” He added, “I just see the value in contributing to and helping my fellow citizens and trying to express a better vision for their future.”

Parents and community members were treated to a special preview of this year’s surprise prom theme, The Royal Manor, just hours before the graduating Port Jeff seniors celebrated their prom on Tuesday, June 28.

After 10 months of planning and secrecy, the Port Jeff prom committee finally unveiled its spooky creations. From the lobby to the ballroom to the bathroom stalls, every inch of The Meadow Club was tied together into this year’s theme. Randi DeWitt, trustee of the Port Jefferson board of education and member of the prom committee, detailed how these plans came together. 

At the beginning of the school year, the executive board of the prom committee made the difficult decision to move the annual prom from its regular venue, the high school, to The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station.

“Everything used to be at the school, but because of COVID — because of that mandate at the beginning of the year — when we sat together as an exec board for the prom, we had to make the decision of where we were going to have it,” DeWitt said. “We decided to have it here at The Meadow Club because there wouldn’t be a mask mandate. We wanted to bring the theme here, which they graciously allowed us to do.”

The committee put together several unique interior designs throughout the banquet space. Part of the prom tradition is that guests are welcomed to a large foyer area. Each student had his or her own mailbox, where parents and visitors could leave special handwritten notes.

“This area we’re very proud of,” DeWitt said. “Every student has a book and it’s a tradition that the parents and other people come and leave messages for the kids.”

Another custom is the intricate decoration of the bathrooms. Both bathrooms contained elaborate displays that featured unique wallpaper, props and even digital audio to create an ambiance of both fun and fright. “This is a big tradition, the bathrooms, because they just get totally transformed,” DeWitt said. 

She described the sense of relief and accomplishment that the committee felt after nearly a year of preparations came to fruition. For her, the event represents the culmination of effort, ingenuity and love on the part of committee members, parents and other volunteers. 

“We had to raise an insane amount of money to pull this off and we did,” DeWitt said. “This is the culmination and it’s great because we know the kids will have so much fun.” She added, “That’s really why we do this — we do it for the kids.”

The Port Jefferson senior prom, a community tradition dating back over half a century, returned on Tuesday, June 28, after two years of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the event itself was held off premises at The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station, a red carpet celebration was successfully conducted at the school, viewed by a sizable turnout of family, friends and community members.

Couples arrived in a wide array of vehicles — fire trucks, sports cars, hot rods, just to name a few. Spectators cheered and honored the students as they arrived and walked up the steps of the high school for what may have been the last time as high school students.

This year, nearly 100 guests attended the prom festivities. This local tradition is alive and well once more.

The following incidents have been reported by Suffolk County Police:

Centereach

■ Walgreens on Middle Country Road in Centereach reported a shoplifter on June 16. A woman allegedly stole miscellaneous cleaning items valued at approximately $50. When a store employee attempted to stop her, the woman threw detergent in the employee’s eyes before fleeing the scene.

Commack

Walmart on Crooked Hill Road in Commack reported a shoplifter on June 18. A man allegedly stole a basketball hoop valued at $180.

Dix Hills

■ A car was reported stolen from the driveway of a residence on Burnham Lane in Dix Hills on June 14. The vehicle, a 2013 Mercedes Benz CLS 550, was worth $30,000.

East Setauket

■ Walmart on Nesconset Highway in East Setauket reported a shoplifter on June 15. A woman allegedly stole 22 items of clothing, assorted jewelry, beauty items and household items valued at $550.

Hauppauge

■ Clean Globe Environmental on Cain Drive in Hauppauge reported that someone stole a catalytic convertor off their company vehicle, a 2015 Ford F-250, on June 17. The item was worth $900.

Huntington Station

■ Ulta Beauty on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington called the police on June 13 to report that a man allegedly stole assorted fragrance gift sets valued at $428.

Lake Grove

■ AT&T Store at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove reported that a man entered the store on June 18 and allegedly cut the wire off of the store’s model iPhone 13 Pro Max and fled. The cell phone was valued at $1100.

■ Macy’s at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove called the police on June 17 to report that three men allegedly stole 35 items of men’s clothing worth $3043. Security followed the men outside and recovered the stolen items.

Melville

■ Dick’s Sporting Goods on Walt Whitman Road in Melville called the police on June 16 to report that two men allegedly stole $640 worth of miscellaneous clothing.

Port Jefferson Station

■ A resident on Ontario Street in Port Jefferson Station reported that someone broke the rear passenger side window of her car on June 12 and stole a purse containing credit cards and cash.

St. James

■ A resident on Howell Drive in St. James reported that someone broke the passenger front side window of her car and stole a makeup bag on June 18. Cash was stolen from a vehicle parked on Arthur Drive in St. James on the same day.

Selden

■ Walgreens on Middle Country Road in Selden reported a shoplifter on June 18. A man allegedly entered the store, filled his reusable shopping bag with store merchandise and left without paying. The items were valued at $144.

■ Bob’s Stores on Middle Country Road in Selden called the police on June 15 to report that three women allegedly stole assorting clothing valued at approximately $500.

■ A petit larceny was reported at Home Depot on Middle Country Road in Selden on June 13. A man and a woman allegedly stole copper wire valued at $980.

Setauket

■ A resident on Lemark Court in Setauket called the police on June 17 to report that someone had entered his unlocked vehicle parked in the driveway and removed a wallet containing credit cards and cash.

■ A resident on Cinderella Lane in Setauket reported that someone entered his unlocked vehicle parked in the driveway on June 17 and stole a wallet containing credit cards which were later attempted to be used at a few local businesses.

Smithtown

■ Stop & Shop on Main Street in Smithtown reported a shoplifter on June 13. A woman allegedly tried to steal a shopping cart full of assorted grocery items valued at $1018. When confronted by security, she left the shopping cart on the sidewalk and fled.

South Setauket

■ A petit larceny was reported at Home Depot on Pond Path in South Setauket on June 13. A man allegedly stole a spool of electrical wire worth $659.

Stony Brook

■ A resident on Millstream Lane in Stony Brook reported that someone entered his unlocked vehicle on June 18 and stole his wallet containing credit cards. The suspect attempted to use the credit cards shortly after but they were declined.

■ A car was reported stolen on Shadetree Lane in Stony Brook on June 12. The key fob had been left in the center console. The vehicle, a 2022 Acura MDX, was valued at $50,000.

■ A resident on Sycamore Circle in Stony Brook reported that someone entered his unlocked vehicle parked in the driveway on June 12 and stole a wallet with cash inside. A resident on Saywood Lane in Stony Brook reported a pocketbook stolen from an unlocked vehicle that same day.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS.

— COMPILED BY HEIDI SUTTON

Members of the 2022 prom committee are working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring this local tradition back to life. (Left to right) Janet Stafford, Danielle Friedman, Randi DeWitt and Pauline Spiller. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School prom, a decades-old local tradition for the Port Jefferson community, is returning on Tuesday, June 28.

Since 1958, the prom has brought community members together in a spectacular send-off of its graduating seniors. The tradition includes a secret theme decided upon by the parents, along with a complete transformation of the school around that theme.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted this tradition. Due to the lockdowns and social gathering restrictions put in place at the time, the event was severely limited in its scope and scale. The world is opening up again and so is the prom.

“This year, we’re doing a hybrid version,” said Randi DeWitt, a trustee of the Port Jefferson board of education and member of the prom committee. “Last year, it was just at The Meadow Club. This year, we’re going to do a traditional drive up at the high school as has always been done, but instead of going into the school, they’re going to head to The Meadow Club.”

An open invitation to the public

Reigniting this tradition will require active engagement on the part of the public. Community members are invited to view this year’s theme at The Meadow Club as well as the drive-up ceremony and red carpet event held at the high school. 

“The tradition is that the whole area is filled with community members,” DeWitt said. “Not just the parents of the kids who are graduating, the whole community comes to view it.” She added, “That’s what we wanted to bring back: The sense of community because that is what has been lost for a couple of years due to COVID.”

DeWitt hopes for a large turnout to reward the monumental efforts of parents and the prom committee who brought this tradition to life once again. “We want [the community] to see what we’ve done here — all of our hard work — and then be here for the kids when they walk up,” she said.

A viewing of the decor and theme will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Meadow Club, 1147 Route 112, Port Jefferson Station. Photos of the attendees will begin at 4:15 p.m. at the Village Center. The red carpet event will start at 6 p.m. at the high school, after which the students will head to The Meadow Club for prom night. 

Rebecca Kassay, left, and Lauren Sheprow, right, were both elected to two-year terms as village trustees. Left photo from the village website, right courtesy Sheprow

Hundreds of Port Jefferson village residents hit the polls throughout Tuesday, reelecting Rebecca Kassay and promoting upstart Lauren Sheprow to two-year terms as village trustees. 

In this strongly contested election, five candidates competed for two available seats on the village board of trustees. Kassay, who has already served on the board for two years, received a vote of confidence from residents and retains her seat. Sheprow, on the other hand, unseated eight-year incumbent Bruce Miller. Gerard Gang and Ana Hozyainova were also in the running, with both candidates receiving a respectable show of support from the voting public. 

‘I commend my fellow candidates for races well run and hope that their passion and desire to strengthen and enrich our community continues beyond the election.’ — Trustee Rebecca Kassay

Kassay praised the other candidates in the race whose platforms helped raise awareness around important topics for the incoming board to consider.

“I commend my fellow candidates for races well run and hope that their passion and desire to strengthen and enrich our community continues beyond the election,” she said in an email. “I hope that I can serve as a resource to help them turn their ideas into action for the betterment of our village.”

Interpreting the election results, Kassay suggests they indicate that the community favors more robust exchanges between trustees and residents along with long-term strategic decision-making.

“These election results represent the voice of residents who are interested in long-term considerations in village decisions, and the voice of those who want more conversation not only among board members but also between the village government and its constituency,” Kassay said. She added, “I look forward to building upon efforts started in my first term — the Six Acre Park project, infrastructural grants and various code updates — and working with community members on a number of quality-of-life and safety efforts to help our residents make the most of this incredible village they call home.”

‘I have a healthy respect for this process and for the other candidates who put themselves out there to ask for a chance to serve their community.’

— Trustee-elect Lauren Sheprow

Sheprow, whose father Hal previously served as mayor, will continue the family tradition of public service in the coming term. She offered her perspective on the race, acknowledging the efforts of the other candidates and thanking the public for its engagement throughout the process.

“I am humbled by the trust the residents have put in me to represent them and was struck by how competitive this race was and how engaged the people in the village are about their elected leadership,” she said in an email. “I have a healthy respect for this process and for the other candidates who put themselves out there to ask for a chance to serve their community. I wish them the best and hope they remain involved in the areas they are most passionate about.”

A first-time elected officeholder, Sheprow recognizes there is still much to learn. The trustee-elect said she hopes to familiarize herself with the village code and continue to meet her new constituents.

“There are a lot of people I didn’t get to speak with and will proactively continue to pursue these face-to-face interactions that will help guide my focus and activity as a collaborative member of this board,” she said, adding, “I plan to become well versed in village law and use the code of the Village of Port Jefferson to guide my thinking and in the decision-making process where appropriate.”

Kassay and Sheprow will officially take office on July 4 after a formal swearing-in ceremony held at Village Hall.

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Maker Faire Long Island returned to Port Jefferson village on Saturday, June 11, at the Village Center.

Maker Faire LI is an annual festival held by the Long Island Explorium, a science and engineering museum based in Port Jeff. Its purpose is to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education by way of innovations and crafts of people throughout the region and country. 

Angeline Judex, executive director of the Explorium, discussed the surprising success of the event after its two-year pause. “We’re really happy with this event,” she said. “It has turned out really well — much better than we actually expected.”

Proceeds from the event will support the Explorium’s various educational programs. The goal of these programs is to enliven STEM through activities that are engaging and fun. Judex said the Explorium hopes to inspire young people and nourish a lifelong pursuit of STEM. 

“It’s really important for children to be inspired and excited about STEM at an early age,” Judex said, adding, “We focus on enriching and inspiring children from K-6 so that they get excited about STEM because this is the future.” She added, “We want to support the next generation of leaders and scientists who are going to be inspired to solve some of the challenges in the environments we live in.”

Hundreds of makers gathered at Harborfront Park to showcase their own unique contributions to the field. Sejal Mehra, one of the presenters at the festival, displayed what she has coined “engineering art.” Her works integrate aspects of collage, engineering and sustainability studies under a common discipline.

“I create ‘engineering art,’ which is made from recycling old computer and electronic parts or plastic that would have otherwise ended up in the trash to show the beauty of STEM,” she said. “I’m on a mission to change the face of STEM through art.”

Makers such as Mehra offer the necessary guidance for young people to pursue STEM. Through their example of creativity and ingenuity, young people are challenged to change the world themselves.  

“I think it’s really important to have programs like this one to help inspire young minds into a lifelong pursuit of STEM because you never know when or how something is going to spark their love for STEM,” Mehra said. “It is also great for young minds to be inspired by young adults like myself because we were just in their shoes and can help motivate them to pursue STEM. Without programs like this, the amount of exposure to the field and its vast possibilities and intersections would not be possible.”

Mehra’s artwork is currently for sale and can be purchased through her website or by contacting her via email or Instagram.

Joining Judex was a group of public officials who offered their support for the museum in its mission to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers. New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), a geologist by profession, spoke of the importance of Maker Faire in encouraging young minds to tackle the impending challenges of environmental degradation.

“The purpose of bringing us all together is to enhance this community, to imagine possibilities for all of the people who live here and visit here, and to use our imagination just a little bit,” he said. “One of the things that’s very important is the narrative and theme that are interwoven around protecting the environment. We’re situated here in beautiful Port Jefferson on the edge of the harbor, and it is a beautiful place to remember the importance of sustainability.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was also present for the event. She thanked the Explorium for providing these services and enriching the community.

“I am pleased to be here to support Maker Faire Long Island once again, to support the Explorium, and encourage children and our residents to explore, to innovate, to use their imagination and encourage ingenuity,” she said. “Thank you for all you do to encourage that in children right here in our own backyard.”

Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) recognized Judex for the work she put into making this annual tradition successful once again and for championing STEM and motivating young people.

“I want to thank you not only for the work you did to bring this event together, but for the work you do all year long to create a fun place for kids to do science, to teach kids, to make it accessible to everybody, to bring science to places where maybe it isn’t, and to find new places to suddenly discover science,” the councilmember said.

Kathianne Snaden, Village of Port Jefferson deputy mayor, thanked the many entities that helped make this event possible once again.

“To all of the volunteers, to all of the makers, to the attendees, to our code department, our parks department and our highway department, without all of you coming together to make an event like this happen, we just couldn’t do it,” she said. “To the Explorium for providing cutting-edge technology, programming and hands-on learning for our children, it is just unmatched in this area.”

Village trustee Rebecca Kassay and her husband volunteered as traffic guards during the event. She called it “a pleasure directing parking.”

“As my husband and I stand and direct parking, we look at the children leaving this event and I asked them, ‘What have you made today?’” the trustee said. “Their faces light up and they show me something they’ve made, whether it’s a magnet, whether it’s a whirligig, whether it’s lip balm.” She continued, “It is so important to empower these young people with the gift of demystifying what is in the world around them.”

Englebright concluded the remarks with an anecdote. When the assemblyman was just 14 years old, his science teacher at the time recommended he attend a junior curator program at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. His decision to heed that advice would reshape the course of his life.

“I became a junior curator and it changed my life,” he said. “The Explorium, this children’s museum, I believe is going to change an awful lot of young people’s lives. Now here I am — with white hair — some years later, and I can tell you of the importance of your programs and the worthiness of everything that you do.”