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Board of Trustees

Front, left to right, Chief Deputy to the President and Senior VP for Government and Community Relations Judy Greiman, Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron, President Maurie McInnis, Mayor Lauren Sheprow, CEO and COO of Stony Brook University Hospital Carol Gomes, VP for Student Affairs Rick Gatteau. Back, left to right, Trustees Drew Biondo, Robert Juliano, Stan Loucks and Rebecca Kassay. Photo by John Griffin.

By Nistha Boghra

The Village of Port Jefferson has officially become “Seawolves Country.” 

“In Port Jefferson, we are so lucky to be here as a resource and respite to the 40,000-plus people who work and study on the beautiful and amazing campus 6 miles down the road,” said Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow at the Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday, April 24.

Sheprow and the Board of Trustees presented the declaration to prominent representatives from Stony Brook University, including President Maurie McInnis, Vice President for Student Affairs Rick Gatteau, CEO of Stony Brook University Hospital Carol Gomes and Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron.

“We are thrilled that the village has named Port Jeff as Seawolves Country,” Gatteau said. “It speaks to the wonderful partnership with our student body and student affairs team, including opportunities for student employment and internships, and to enjoy entertainment, restaurants and shopping in the downtown area.”

The redesignation of Port Jefferson as Seawolves Country follows a similar 2012 announcement. Signage and banners are to be featured around the village, to the shared sense of Stony Brook pride and reinforce the close relationship between the university and the local community.

Heather Banoub, assistant vice president of community relations at Stony Brook University, expressed similar enthusiasm about the benefits of this proclamation. 

“Declaring Port Jefferson as Seawolves Country will foster the creation of new partnerships and opportunities for Stony Brook students, faculty and staff to enjoy the village,” Banoub said. “It will likewise encourage our neighbors in Port Jefferson to enjoy all the resources offered on our campus — from continuing education to exceptional health care and from athletics to performing arts.”

The decision to declare Port Jefferson as Seawolves Country was made with consideration of the significant presence of the Stony Brook community in the village. More than 500 faculty and staff, along with nearly 250 students, call Port Jefferson home. The relationship between the village and Stony Brook University extends into various areas, including the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, which conducts a majority of its research in Port Jefferson. 

The Port Jefferson Emergency Medical Service is another example of collaboration, where dozens of Stony Brook students volunteer to serve the local community. Additionally, Stony Brook University programs like the Seawolves Outdoor Adventure Program and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes often host activities in Port Jefferson

“The proclamation celebrates the close connection that has developed and flourished between the Village of Port Jefferson, Stony Brook University and Stony Brook Medicine,” McInnis said. “Port Jefferson is home to a large portion of our Stony Brook community, welcoming them to live, learn and discover this special place.” 

Nistha Boghra is a reporter with The SBU Media Group, part of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism’s Working Newsroom program for students and local media.

Mike Utevsky, left, Lisa Davidson, center and Judy Ogden. Photo courtesy Judy Ogden

By Sabrina Artusa

Village of Head of the Harbor has inducted Mayor Mike Utevsky, trustee Lisa Davidson and incumbent trustee Judith Ogden to its Board of Trustees. 

Utevsky unseated the previous mayor, Doug Dahlgard, who had occupied the position for 10 years. All three members are on the Heritage Party line, a party whose principal approach to governance is preservation.

A real estate attorney who hasn’t run for office before, Utevsky said he decided to run after noticing the desire of other residents for a change. Indeed, Dahlgard and his board experienced pushback after a vote allowing a monastery to build a church on a historically significant property.

As a resident who regularly attended board meetings, Utevsky said, “When [the citizens] made comments … we were met generally with stony silence.”

Davidson, a retired television producer, echoed this sentiment, and expanded on her desire to represent the people of Head of the Harbor “It was purely my wish that the village government should be more inclusive,” she said. “I ran so that governance is kind.”

The three inductees emphasize transparency and revived vigor for code enforcement as guiding values for their term.

“Preservation, natural resources, code enforcement and understanding policy — those are the key pieces,” Ogden said.

One of the primary concerns of the new administration is reopening one of the three access points to Stony Brook Harbor and making the area more accessible for people to enjoy. Currently, there is one road available to lead to the harbor, which according to Davidson has limited parking and accessibility. The new administration is confident that at least one of these access points will be restored.

“If everything goes according to plan, we will have no additional docks in the harbor, people will not be clearing the trees and the buffers will be remediated and the access points will be reopened,” Davidson said. “The village will look as it does now, but better.”

Utevsky said of the subject, “It won’t be easy – there are many legal and practical issues – but it is very important to many residents of the community.”

The mayor also said that he plans to be vigilant with new construction and development, and wants to improve the village while still being cognizant of how it will affect existing housing and landscapes. 

“I don’t want us to turn into another overbuilt suburb. That doesn’t mean abandoning all construction, it means well-considered design that works well with the existing historical fabric of the village,” he said.

Development has been a frequent subject of contention in Head of the Harbor and neighboring municipalities. As a member of the Saint James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, Ogden has advocated for the preservation of Flowerfield Fairgrounds and its release from a subdivision proposal that many citizens deem excessive.

In addition to being an incumbent trustee and coalition member, Ogden is also a landscaper and wants to be reinstated as highway commissioner. In the pursuit of transparency, Ogden intends to organize a newsletter, an endeavor she hopes will foster communication not only between administration and constituents but also among bodies of governance.

“I think there will be more communication among the departments rather than it coming from one person and one perspective,” she said. “The village does not operate because of one person, there are many that make it happen.”

Deer population control is another concern of the mayor who, in the name of preservation and safety, wants to implement a solution. 

Utevsky acknowledged that a lot has to be done to create change, but was eager to start. “We would like to revive a spirit of community in the village,” he said.

The next public trustee meeting will be held Wednesday, April 17.

**Amendment made – 04/17/2024 – “Utevsky usurped the previous mayor, Doug Dahlgard, […]” the incorrect use of verbiage was changed from usurped to unseated.

Greg Philipps

Last week, the Three Village Historical Society (TVHS) celebrated the inauguration of its 2024 board of trustees with a swearing-in ceremony. The event, held on Tuesday, February 13th, marked the official introduction of the newly appointed leadership team.

Bob Lauto

Greg Philipps, assuming the role of president, and Bob Lauto, taking on the position of vice president, were both sworn in during the ceremony. The honor of administering the oath fell to Fred Bryant, a respected longtime member and former trustee of the Society.

Mari Irizarry, Director of the society, expressed enthusiasm for the new trustees, citing their diverse backgrounds and wealth of experience. She underscored their capacity to provide strong leadership and varied perspectives crucial for addressing the significant challenges and opportunities facing the organization in the coming year.

“As we welcome Greg Philipps and Bob Lauto to their respective roles, we are invigorated by the fresh energy and expertise they bring to our board,” remarked Irizarry. “Their appointment enhances our ability to navigate the complex landscape ahead, ensuring that we uphold our commitment to excellence in education and community-based programming.”

Drew Biondo. Photo courtesy the Village of Port Jefferson

In her first official act as Port Jefferson Village mayor, Lauren Sheprow has appointed Drew Biondo to fill her unexpired term as trustee, which ends in June 2024.

Biondo, a village resident since 1998, is director of communications at Suffolk County Community College with nearly 40 years of experience as a communications executive and administrator in both the public and private sectors.

Biondo was appointed to the Long Island Power Authority Board of Trustees in January 2018 and served for five years as a member of the Governance, Planning and Personnel Committee. His responsibilities included setting appropriate priorities and implementing best practices, among other tasks.

Before joining SCCC’s staff, Biondo served as director of communications and press secretary for former New York State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), working as the senator’s chief spokesperson and as a policy advisor.

“I’ve known and worked with Drew in a variety of capacities for more than 20 years,” Sheprow said. “I know him to be very strategic and purposeful in his approach. His time spent on the LIPA board, in higher education, as well as in Senator LaValle’s [office] has prepared him well to be able to serve the residents of Port Jefferson as a trustee.”

Biondo attended Marist College and is a graduate of LIU Post with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

In a historic act, the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees voted 5-0 on Monday to extend the terms of service for village mayor, trustees and judges from two to four years.

Prompting the vote, village clerk Barbara Sakovich recommended the term changes during her report, outlining the logistical challenges of holding elections every year. 

“As we have an election every year, and we’re gearing up for this June’s election, we know we’re not getting [voting] machines anymore because of the primaries,” the clerk said. “I just would like to maybe get everyone’s pulse on maybe changing the terms from two to four years so that we don’t have to keep doing this every year.”

‘If the public wants to have a referendum or wants to have a vote on it, then they will let this board know.’

— Lauren Sheprow

Village attorney Brian Egan advised the board the term extensions would be legal under the New York State Village Law. The change would not affect ongoing terms but would impact the incoming mayor and trustees elected this June. The resolution is subject to a permissive referendum, which under the state law would enable the public to put the resolution out for a public vote this June.

Before the unanimous vote on the resolution, some board members offered their opinions on how four-year terms may benefit the village. “I always look at how you can get a higher voter turnout across the village,” trustee Rebecca Kassay said. “Voter turnout is always relatively dismal, but having an election every single year, people don’t seem to know about it.”

Trustee Stan Loucks suggested the existing term lengths are inadequate for long-term decision-making and planning. “I’ve always thought two years is way too short,” he said. “The first year, you’re just getting your feet wet, and the next year you’re out there campaigning.”

Trustee Lauren Sheprow considered the permissive referendum an option available to community members if they choose to exercise it. 

“Let democracy happen,” she said. “If the public wants to have a referendum or wants to have a vote on it, then they will let this board know. Give them the choice to come forward on it.”

Mayor’s response

In an interview following the decision, Mayor Margot Garant explained what village residents could expect moving forward.

“This is a board decision that is subject to a public referendum,” she said. “What that means is that the public … has 30 days within which to garner the requisite signatures to bring it to a public vote.” 

Assessing the board’s motivations for approving the measure, Garant emphasized administering village elections has become highly problematic. She noted that the absence of electronic voting machines to conduct elections has placed undue strain on the village clerk, who must count the ballots by hand.

“I believe part of what’s really driving this is the fact that we’re not getting electronic voting machines from the Suffolk County Board of Elections,” the mayor said. “To count the ballots by hand is a six- to eight-hour exercise,” adding, “I think Barbara did not finish counting votes until 2 a.m. This year being a mayoral election, she’s probably going to be there until 3 or 4 in the morning.”

Garant, asked for her outlook on the electoral process in Port Jefferson, acknowledged that elections foster accountability for those in office. However, she stated the board must also weigh the challenges of administering such elections, especially when they are conducted by paper ballots and counted by hand.

Elections “create a sense of accountability,” she said. “But I think the resources it takes and the amount of energy it takes to run an election really does impact your ability to serve. A two-year term is not a long time to get things done.”

She added, “I think it’s always great to have your community engaged, and I think elections engage the public. … I made the motion because I think the pulse of the room was for that, and again, the 5-0 resolution shows you that the political will was there.”

Asked whether there was adequate public input before passing the resolution, Garant said the board used the appropriate procedures and operated within the confines of the state Village Law.

“If the Board of Trustees has the authority to make that decision, I don’t think hearing more public input would have swayed that decision,” Garant said. “There is a mechanism by which the people can speak, and that was exactly what Lauren said — let them exercise their right to a permissive referendum.”

Pressed on whether fewer elections translate to less democracy, the mayor responded, “I don’t think so.” Effective democracy, she indicated, takes a more holistic approach.

“I think that there’s a broader definition to democracy,” she said. “Democracy is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. There are still a lot of mechanisms to keep that in place and working.”

She concluded, “I think we’re a little behind the times, and I think it’s time to catch up and let the people decide.”

Stock photo

In this year’s Village of Head of the Harbor March 21 election, trustees Jeffrey Fischer and Daniel White were challenged by Lisa Davidson.

Davidson decided to run after joining with fellow residents to oppose a proposed dock that would have been constructed by Cordwood Park. 

Fischer and White retained their seats with 186 and 164 votes, respectively. Davidson garnered 141 votes.

In her concession statement, Davidson said she will continue to be involved in the village.

“I will remain a vigilant observer and citizen doing everything I can to protect Head of the Harbor from the looming onslaught of development and a board of trustees and mayor who too often misconstrue the easy way out with the right way forward.”

File photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

The newly configured Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees held its first public meeting on Tuesday, July 5.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow took her seat alongside her colleagues on the board for the first time. After completing her first full day in office, the trustee discussed ways in which she intends to familiarize herself with the mechanics of the village and learn more about the concerns of her constituents.

“I continue to take information in and I’ll continue to seek information from the residents, not because I am not campaigning anymore but because I am really interested in what they have to say,” she said. 

Sheprow will jump headfirst into her first term of office, already securing two important assignments from Mayor Margot Garant: commissioner of communications and commissioner of recreation. Outlining her rationale behind these appointments, the mayor said she intends to tap into Sheprow’s professional experience in public relations and repurpose those skills in service to the community.

“We put her to work as commissioner of communications [because] we want to put her public relations experience and career to work for us,” Garant said, adding, “And also as commissioner of recreation, so that she can help the recs department and because she was a former member of the recs committee.”

As well, Garant congratulated reelected Trustee Rebecca Kassay, who began her second term this week. 

Kassay reported that she received a request to explore code changes related to the planting of bamboo as the roots of this woody grass can cross property lines and create conflicts between neighbors.

“This would address the planting of new bamboo as well as sort of being more clear about when someone has bamboo and it starts creeping over to another property line,” she said. “This is a big issue as far as property values can go and can help prevent neighborly disputes in the future.” 

Trustee Stan Loucks delivered an extensive report on the status of the recreation department as it enters the height of its busy season. He announced that two tennis courts at the country club have been opened for pickleball and will remain minimally open throughout the summer until construction begins at the East Beach bluff.

“We anticipate that the construction of the lower wall along the bluff will be starting sometime in August or early September and if any part of this construction requires working from the top, in other words, working from those tennis courts, then we’re going to have to close those courts,” he said. Loucks added that East Beach and its parking lot will also be closed off during the construction period.

Although golf membership at the country club has exceeded 630 members this year, Loucks said there are no plans to cap membership. He advised community members that while tee times are scarce between 6 and 11 a.m., there are plenty of remaining slots available after this time frame.

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden used her report to address an ongoing issue related to the recently renovated public bathrooms at Rocketship Park. According to her, the bathrooms were vandalized just four days after they were opened, prompting the board to enforce a closing time for public use of the facility.

“The conclusion we all came to was that because of the vandalism that happened four days after opening our brand new, expensive bathrooms … it is best to keep them closed at 7 p.m. and to have a sign to say that they are closed at 7 p.m. due to the vandalism that is occurring,” she said. This signage will assure that the public knows “when they’re closed and why they’re closed.”

Snaden also informed the public that the village has renewed its intermunicipal agreement with the Port Jefferson School District to allow constables on school grounds. She added that the roadway closure at the intersection of Route 25A and Arlington Avenue remains ongoing.

Garant recognized the village employees who worked to facilitate a smooth election day last month. She also acknowledged all of the candidates who ran for the village board and commended them for their continued commitment to the service of the village.

“I thank you for your involvement, for engaging, for getting out and knocking on the doors,” the mayor said. “You make a difference and we hope that you stay engaged.”

Garant also highlighted the monumental act of heroism on the part of a group of Port Jeff high school graduates. As reported on June 30 in The Port Times Record, these grads left their high school commencement ceremony to help extinguish a fire on Arlington Avenue.

“Brave is not even the word,” Garant said. “Community service is an understatement. … This really says what Port Jefferson is all about.” She added, “The fact that we do have a fire department that helps train our kids and that they are ready to serve under any circumstances is just absolutely amazing and encouraging and amazing to me.”

Concluding a hotly contested election season in the Village of Port Jefferson, Rebecca Kassay and Lauren Sheprow were sworn into office for two-year terms on Monday, July 4.

Joined by family and friends, Trustee Rebecca Kassay takes the oath of office. Photo by Raymond Janis

Immediately after dozens of groups and community organizations paraded through the streets for the Fourth of July celebration, community members gathered on the front lawn of Village Hall for the formal swearing-in ceremony. 

Members of Cub Scout Pack 41 performed the ceremonial raising of the flag, which featured a historic 46-star flag that was donated by the Squires family. For more on this flag, see The Port Times Record’s April 28 story, “Squires family heirloom returns to Port Jefferson.”

Following the flag ceremony, Mayor Margot Garant, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden and Trustee Stan Loucks gathered on the steps of Village Hall to join their incoming colleagues. Barbara Sakovich, the Village clerk, administered the oath of office to Kassay and Sheprow, who each took the oath while surrounded by family and friends. 

Upon taking office for a second term, Kassay thanked members of the Port Jeff community for entrusting her to continue her work on the Village Board. 

“Thank you everyone for being here today, for being a part of this village and for entrusting part of it with me,” she said. “It’s truly humbling to be entering my second term, and I am so very much looking forward to continuing to add strength to this already strong community.”

Trustee Lauren Sheprow sworn in for her first term of office. Photo by Raymond Janis

Sheprow, a first-time public officeholder, was surrounded by a sizable party of family members, including children, grandchildren and her father, former Mayor Hal Sheprow. 

On a similar note as Kassay, Sheprow thanked the community members for their support. “I can’t express how grateful I am that the Village of Port Jefferson has put their faith and trust in me to represent them for these next two years,” the new trustee said, adding, “I hope that I can live up to that faith and trust.”

The trustees took their seats before the public the following night. For more on this meeting, see The Port Times Record’s July 7 story, “Port Jeff board of trustees updates public on recreation, vandalism and local heroism.”

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.”

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File photo by Heidi Sutton

By John Loughlin

The Port Jefferson Board Trustees held their bi-weekly Zoom meeting on April 19.

After their approval of minutes, changes and amendments from the previous meeting on April 5, they got down to business.

One of the first topics of discussion was Harbor Square Mall. The village said they are looking to take some parking spots out to stop the constant crowd that it brings. The purpose of switching and eliminating parking lot spots is to keep the parking moving and open, and there is not a lot of parking spaces for the restaurant and apartment complex that is in the mall.

Mayor Margot Garant made a special thanks to the families and children who helped local nonprofit Hometown Hope clean up beaches last weekend.

There were teams that went McAlister Park, Centennial and East Beach where they cleaned up everything that was necessary to cleanup.

For leisure as the warm weather hits, the basketball league is starting up in June from ages 12 to 15.

Also, a tentative date of May 21, will potentially hold a movie night for high school seniors who missed out on their final year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.