By Raymond Janis
This week, TBR News Media sat down with Gerard Gang, candidate in the upcoming Village of Port Jefferson trustee elections June 21. In our interview, Gang discussed his professional background in packaging, his plans to improve senior services, cultural programs in the village, and more.
What is your background and why would you like to be involved in local government?
First, I want to say that I am honored to be introduced to the public. For those who don’t know me, I live in Port Jefferson and have been here for 32 years. My wife, Patty, and I have raised two children in the school district. She was a teacher’s assistant in the elementary school and is the hearts of many children no matter where we go.
Professionally, I come from a background in fragrance and cosmetic packaging as a design director. I was responsible for both the marketing and the creative services. Combined with my other creative professional skills, this will be excellent experience and an asset to the role of trustee.
I want to be a representative of the residents. I’m retired and have the time to be involved in our wonderful village and to create ways of communicating better between the residents and the village. I was a member of the economic development council that founded the farmers market, and I was also a member of the [village] Beautification Committee. I am presently on the Six Acre Park Committee, helping to conceptualize the arboretum and walking park in Upper Port. As residents come to know me, they will learn that I am always willing to listen and make the necessary changes within myself for those whom I may represent.
I also believe that we need to preserve our history, to strengthen our relationships and opportunities, and to optimize our facilities and programs. We need to create new experiences, foster new ideas and increase our revenue to prevent further financial hardship on the taxpayer, who is already struggling with inflation and other economic restraints caused by the pandemic.
A trustee must wear many hats and accept the challenges that no doubt will arise. I am ready, willing and excited to do just that.
Can you describe your experience working with the Six Acre Park Committee?
I have been on the committee since April. Some of my background is in landscaping. As a child, I worked on a farm for years and all the way through college. My interest was to develop a beautiful arboretum. There’s such a need in Upper Port to establish something beautiful, something to enjoy.
We have the condos up there and the new apartments being established. Those people need to have a place where they can walk, meditate and just relax. I think it’s so important for the hospital workers up there. On a stressful day, it would be nice to take 10 minutes to take a stroll through something that’s beautiful, something that’s natural.
How is your professional experience applicable to the work of a trustee?
My experience in packaging — as well as in landscape design, floral design and interior design — has taught me how to focus.
In package design, especially in the studio where I worked, we worked directly with the printer, so we were actually on board when a color was mixed. My eye is extremely sensitive. People will say, “That’s black,” when it’s actually a blue-black, or it has a little bit of a red cast to it. My keen eye will help to take this beautiful village and move it into the future.
It is important to me to hold onto the village’s historic character. I believe in the restoration of Upper Port and I hope to be working with the Architectural Review Committee to update design guidelines to preserve the village’s charm, the integrity of the materials used and the colors selected.
In your opinion, what are the most critical issues facing the village?
The erosion of the bluff and the bond issue is a pretty big topic. I believe in the initial Phase I to establish the lower wall so that we can still have access to the beach. Until all of the information is presented about the upper wall — the drainage and whether to save the club — I will await making any decision until all facts are gathered and until we know what funding is available.
The other issue facing the village is the decline in student enrollment within our school district. The well-being of our children is very important to me. As a trustee, I will work to make sure that an ample population of students is maintained so that the diverse assortment of programs and activities are available to them. I will foster ideas on the possibility of rezoning the school district to include all of Port Jefferson. In rezoning, we would increase the diversity of our students and, in turn, our state aid while hopefully keeping our school taxes balanced. For many, rezoning would lower their school taxes while enriching our programs and also provide a full-day pre-K program.
Another critical issue is increasing village revenue to offset our increases in taxes. I have the knowledge to build upon the revenue in our village by staying within our budget allowances. Through new programs at the Village Center, the country club, the beach and within our village, we have the ability to generate profits that can stabilize our taxes while also providing quality programs for all ages.
I do support the restoration of Upper Port. It needs to happen and it would be a benefit for all of us as that’s the gateway into our village. I would work with the Architectural Review Committee and with the planning committee to do that.
What are your thoughts on the availability of cultural programs in the village and is there room for expansion?
There is definitely room for expansion. We have a lot of cultural aspects in the village and one of my platforms is to optimize the Village Center to create more programs and revenue. Through the years, I have been a floral designer, a coordinator of fundraisers, a curator of art exhibits and local art groups. I have the knowledge and the ability to organize events and build upon the revenue of the venue.
One of my ideas is to develop new programs at the Village Center. One of them would be to create an opportunity for the disabled and the autistic children to express themselves and communicate through art. My wife worked in the school as a teaching assistant and I know that many of these children express themselves and communicate better through art. I would like to encourage the public to host special events through dinners and senior programs there.
I would also like to create a council for the aging committee. Through educational programs, special events and weekly gatherings, we as a community can address and assist our seniors in their needs. There are so many older people in our village that have been the founders of the village, that have been the strength of the village. It would be wonderful for them to be able to live out their full lives in the village.
What are some ways in which the Village Center can be upgraded?
The Village Center is a wonderful building. There are so many opportunities there and it’s wonderful to see that two of the class reunions for the high school are now going to be in the Village Center. It’s great to see that it’s beginning to be used for different reasons. All it takes is one person to come in and say, “Wow, this can be a great environment.”
I have actually done a wedding there. Once you are on the second and third floors, it’s a wonderful environment. It’s beautiful and the view out the window is incredible. With the proper resources and event planners, with flowers and catering, it can be an even more beautiful venue.
I would like to encourage brides to come in and take a look at the place. If you are having a special event, a party or a family reunion, the opportunity is there. I would like to make some small changes downstairs so that as you walk in, it has that appeal that would make you want to host a special occasion there.
How can residents play a more active role in decision-making?
As I went door to door, I spoke to so many people about their concerns. I listened to their stories and everything else. What I want to express to so many of the people is that I ask the residents to reach out, to become more active, to communicate and to show up to our village meetings.
The trustees are here to listen to you, so communicate with them. Voice your opinions because your concerns are my concerns and they should be the trustees’ concerns. As I like to say, one positive thought creates one positive word and results in a positive action. As much as you can communicate, it just opens up doors for things to change.
Is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?
There are so many positive things to look at, to enjoy and to talk about. We should build upon the positives of the village, not just upon the negatives. — Gerard Gang
I actually hope to continue to meet more people. I so enjoy campaigning, meeting so many new people, talking to young people, older people. It was wonderful to come upon the seniors of our village and to listen to their stories. It was just so nice to interact with them because they need to talk and they want to socialize.
There are so many positive things to look at, to enjoy and to talk about. We should build upon the positives of the village, not just upon the negatives. Like I said before, you take a positive word and it becomes an idea and then it turns into a positive action.
I hope to become a trustee. It’s in my blood now — the passion that I have to help people and to help the village.