Democracy and tech intersect to name Station Street in uptown Port Jeff

Democracy and tech intersect to name Station Street in uptown Port Jeff

Pixabay photo

Station Street, a one-way corridor between Port Jefferson train station and Port Jefferson Crossing apartments in Upper Port, is set to open early next year.

Following an upcoming Jan. 3 public hearing and a vote by the village’s board of trustees, the street will be codified within the village code. In an exclusive interview with Mayor Margot Garant, she offered some updates on the roadway opening.

“Physically, it’s ready,” she said. “The structure is up, the signage is installed, the lighting is in and the irrigation is in.” 

Arriving at “Station Street” was an effort that integrated various aspects of the village government’s tech apparatus. That name was given to the street during the Upper Port master plan phase. Cementing the name, however, the village employed some creative means.

“We’ve been calling it that for almost a decade, but we thought, ‘Maybe it’s fun to give the public a chance’” to add input, Garant said.

As part of its monthly Port eReport, the village generated an online survey to collect input from the community. Charmaine Famularo, a village staff member, organized the survey.

With over 130 entries, Station Street was the highest vote getter with 54 votes. Rail Road and Port Place tied as distant second-place finishers, with 19 votes each. Other names included Locomotion Lane, Gateway Drive and Upper Port Drive, among countless others. There were even humorous suggestions such as End of the Line Avenue and Whistle Way.

“We are so excited about the participation we received,” Famularo said in a text message. “Now, as we all pass the Station Street sign as we enter Port, we will have pride in our new road. It is one that we named.”

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden voiced similar sentiments. In an email, she suggested public participation in naming the street added a sense of community identity.

“Having the residents involved in naming the street brings a sense of pride of ownership in the community that I strive to bring to this village,” Snaden said.

Garant regarded the street naming activity as part of an ongoing initiative by the village to boost readership and interaction with the eReport. “I think it adds strength and depth to the newsletter,” she said. “This newsletter is chock-full of information. It’s interactive. It can be a real way of getting the public more engaged.”

She added, “I think the more you understand the technology and are able to utilize it, it’s fun. It was a fun suggestion.”

While street renaming was the first example of incorporating tech in decision-making, it may serve other functions down the road. 

When asked whether she foresees these technologies being used in different formats, Garant said, “With that particular incident, a very small segment of the population responded. I think it’s a way — maybe in addition to a public hearing — of gaining public input, but it would not be the sole source.”

The naming of Station Street reflects how local policymakers and constituents relate to one another through technology. Garant stated the need for municipalities to adapt to these technologies and use them to strengthen local democracy.

“Social media is a very powerful, interactive tool, and if it’s used constructively, it can embrace a lot of important public input,” she said. “I think it can also be a way to distribute important public information.” She concluded by saying, “I think we’re finally getting our arms around that entire thing.”