Tags Posts tagged with "Myrna Gordon"

Myrna Gordon

Port Jefferson’s East Beach on Jan. 25. Photos courtesy Myrna Gordon

By G.T. Scarlatos

The future of the Port Jefferson Country Club is still unclear as concern from local residents grows over the East Beach bluff stabilization project. The 170-acre coastline property, purchased by the Village of Port Jefferson in 1978, lies atop the East Beach bluff. The bluff, which has been rapidly eroding, now leaves the clubhouse dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. Without remediation, the significant village asset could fall into the Long Island Sound within years. 

Elected officials from the Village of Port Jefferson have been aware of this issue for over half a decade and have been in discussion with the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and teams of coastal engineers to come up with a solution for the pressing matter. In cooperation with GEI Consultants, a Huntington Station-based coastal engineering firm, the village introduced a two-phase stabilization initiative in an effort to curb erosion and restore the bluff. 

In 2021, the village obtained a state DEC permit to begin work at the cliff’s base and a $10 million bond was appropriated toward the double-wall system stabilization project. The first phase of the project was completed in the spring of 2023, with the construction of a lower toe retaining wall. But in spite of these efforts, aggressive deforestation, scouring and severe erosion have continued to persist with storms and striking waves wreaking havoc on the bluff. The inadequate efforts to solve the time-sensitive issue has left members of the community alarmed. 

“When the construction [of Phase 1] was first done, it looked really good. It was meshed down, the plantings were in place and the toe line was down at the bottom about 4 or 5 feet high,” Myrna Gordon, a Port Jefferson village resident for over 50 years said. “Then it was hit so badly,” she added. “They [the village] had all of the millions and millions of dollars put into the restoration, which sadly have not worked. So, my question to the village is ’What’s next’? What is the plan? Or is there any plan? The environmental change that’s taken place is so noticeable you can see the erosion all over the place, with the gullies and with the terracing.”

Despite growing concerns, the village looks to continue with the start of the initiative’s second phase. Funding for Phase 2 has been made available through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance grant program, with the village receiving $3.75 million for the proposed upper wall at the country club. The FEMA-funded project will consist of the installation of steel sheeting at the crest of the bluff and a structural tie-back system to offset the heavy weight of the embankment.

“We’re working with FEMA through the process of finalizing the grant application and making sure that we are being responsive to their requirements to secure the grant,” Mayor Lauren Sheprow said. “What we’re all waiting on right now is for FEMA’s approval to move forward with Phase 2.”

Gordon voiced her dissatisfaction with how village officials have handled matters regarding the stabilization project, saying, “This has been a very sensitive issue with our board and there has been very little communication going back and forth with the residents. Many of us wanted a referendum addressing what should be done with a bluff, which we never got.”

“The village has to act quickly,” Gordon urged. “They need to stop looking at the clubhouse as this sentimental structure that meant so much to their lives and face the hard facts. They’re not dealing with the environmental crisis along our shoreline in the best possible way, they’re dealing with it with emotion and sentimentality.”

Local residents gathered Dec. 29 in front of Port Jefferson Harbor to participate in a ceasefire vigil organized by the North Country Peace Group. The event, held amid the ongoing Israeli-Hamas conflict, aimed to raise awareness and call for an immediate end to the violence in Gaza.

As the clock struck noon, participants displayed signs bearing messages of peace and hope. Speakers from the peace group shared their thoughts on the conflict, urging those present to advocate for diplomatic solutions and humanitarian aid.

“We need to be visible, we need to let people know what our community stands for,” Port Jefferson resident Myrna Gordon said. “We need to let them know that we want a ceasefire, that we want to end these atrocious killings. It’s important for our community to see that we’re here, that we’re not going to go away, and what’s happening now.”

Attendees shared stories of hope, emphasizing the cost of the ongoing conflict.

“We’ve been doing this for over 50 years,” Gordon said. “You do get tired, and you do get worn down by the bureaucracy. But with support like this in our communities, we’re very fortunate to have a very solid community of peace activists, people who are simply working for justice. We just have to stay the course.”

Despite the somber mood, the vigil was also a testament to the enduring human spirit. The shared grief and the collective call for peace created a powerful sense of solidarity among those present.

The ceasefire vigil is just one of many similar events taking place around the world. As the conflict continues, the call for peace grows louder, urging leaders to find a way to end the suffering and bring about a lasting peace.

By Nasrin Zahed

A small yet meaningful display of unity and hope unfolded at Resistance Corner in Port Jefferson Station last Sunday, Nov. 5.

This was no grand protest outside the hamlet’s Train Car Park but rather a quiet gathering. Along the side of the road, cars passing by, demonstrators delivered a message of peace and compassion against the stark backdrop of geopolitical unrest in the Middle East.

A handful of peace demonstrators stood by the roadside holding small, homemade signs bearing messages calling for peace in Gaza.

“It is important for our community to come out and let people see that we’re here,” said event organizer and Port Jeff resident Myrna Gordon. “We’re active. We’re not going to be silent while tens of thousands of people are being killed, injured and homeless.”

Gordon urged that locals throughout Long Island should lend their voices to speak up on international affairs such as these. “We have to step up,” she said. “It’s not taking a side — it’s for humanity.”

This message encapsulated the essence of the gathering, bringing to light the voices of those who desired a halt to the ongoing violence. They maintained that taking a stand for humanity was paramount, irrespective of their background or identity, and as necessary.

As cars whizzed by, the demonstration continued a small yet resolute display amid everyday life.

Photo by Raymond Janis
Members of the North Country Peace Group advocate against nuclear proliferation on Saturday, Aug. 5. Photo courtesy Myrna Gordon

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The North Country Peace Group observed the 78th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at our weekly vigil in Setauket on Saturday, Aug. 5. 

This is a time for our community to gather in mourning, remembrance and in solidarity with all people affected by the destructive power of nuclear weapons at every level of their development, testing and use. It is also a time for us to amplify the call that nuclear weapons must never be used.

Myrna Gordon

North Country Peace Group

Fare hikes don’t help Port Jeff LIRR riders

Gov. Kathy Hochul [D] and MTA Chairman Janno Lieber’s boosting of the new MTA One Metro New York fare collection system does little for Port Jefferson Branch riders on the Long Island Rail Road. 

In 2017, the MTA awarded a $573 million contract to Cubic Transportation Systems to replace the Metro Card. OMNY was originally promised to be completed between 2019 and 2023. 

The cost of OMNY has grown to $645 million. The project is currently $130 million over budget. The MTA has never made public any detailed recovery schedule from the contractor. Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad will not reach substantial completion until late 2025.

In 2022, the MTA lost over $600 million to fare evasion. There is no indication in 2023 that this financial loss will be significantly reduced. Neither Hochul nor Lieber is able to explain how OMNY will end routine fare evasion as it continues to flourish today.

Another critical failure that Hochul, Lieber or their predecessors never acknowledge, is the inability to come to agreement for integration of OMNY with NJ Transit, Port Authority Trans Hudson subway and NYC Economic Development Corporation Private Ferry fare collection systems.

Larry Penner

Great Nec

Sherwood-Jayne Farm animals represent our local history

The recent upheaval at the Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket has primarily been focused on the current animals and myself, but it should really be about preserving our local history. 

History isn’t something that just is, it is something that was and then becomes. The organization, Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, was founded in 1948 by many people, including Mr. Howard Sherwood. He did this to bequeath his property, the Jayne Farm, to it. 

Sherwood’s vision was to preserve a bucolic farm setting and educate the community about its history. He started a flock of sheep in 1933 and had blankets woven from their wool. 

Preservation Long Island, formerly known as SPLIA, has since kept a flock as a tribute to him. Current PLI executive director, Alexandra Wolfe, was quoted in the July 27 TBR article written by Mallie Jane Kim as saying, “The animals serve as a visual respite for people on the road, but they don’t really connect the property to what we do.” 

Historically, livestock were an integral part of life. Horses and cattle were used for plowing, poultry for eggs and meat, everyone had a family cow and sheep were kept for their wool. Our ancestors didn’t hop on their phones to order a new shirt and have it show up in two days on their doorstep. 

The sheep were shorn, the wool washed, carded, spun, woven into fabric and sewn into clothes. So how does getting rid of the resident sheep help to connect the property better to history? It doesn’t. What it does is take away from it. 

A visual respite is what people love about this farm. The animals draw their attention. So let them be drawn in, and then educate them about what life was like. Let’s build the flock back to what it was and really teach about the “sheep-to-shawl” process. 

People love farms because they show a different way of life. This farm was preserved for the community. Let’s teach the community about the place they live in and what makes it so special. Let’s allow the locals to learn the old ways of life. Let’s bring life back to the farm instead of taking it away. 

What we do in the days, weeks, months and years ahead will impact our children’s children. Please help preserve our local history. The current animals and I will thank you and all the ones to come will as well.

Susanna B. Gatz

Caretaker, Sherwood-Jayne Farm

East Setauket


From left, trustees Bob Juliano and Drew Biondo, Mayor Lauren Sheprow and Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay. Not pictured, trustee Stan Loucks. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Aidan Johnson

Monday, July 10, marked Lauren Sheprow’s first Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees meeting as village mayor. 

Sheprow led the new board through their business and reorganization meeting, in which the reconfigured village board voted to reject proposed code changes slated for the Maryhaven Center of Hope property on Myrtle Avenue.

Mayor Lauren Sheprow presiding over the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees on Monday, July 10. Photo by Aidan Johnson

Maryhaven Center of Hope

The proposed code amendments were an effort by the previous administration to preserve the historic building on the Maryhaven site. [See story, “For Maryhaven, Port Jeff village board weighs historic preservation, density and conservation,” April 29, TBR News Media website.] 

It would have created a special permit application to allow the village board to designate specific parcels that contribute to Port Jefferson’s architectural and aesthetic character. 

If approved, an applicant meeting these criteria would have qualified for relaxed standards for land use, allowing for additional height and stories without additional clearing.

During the public comment period Monday night, former village trustee Barbara Ransome addressed the continuing concerns over the property.

“I’m hoping that there are no quick decisions about changing codes for potential developers,” she said. “I think we heard at the [May 1] public hearing a lot of concern about the infrastructure, about losing a wonderful area that people feel is just going to be too crowded with that kind of density.”

Trustee Stan Loucks, not pictured, left the village board meeting after learning he would not be reappointed as liaison to Port Jefferson Country Club. Photo by Aidan Johnson


But not all went smoothly at Village Hall.

Trustee Stan Loucks, who ran in this year’s village election alongside mayoral candidate Kathianne Snaden, left directly after the board’s reorganization meeting, skipping the general meeting altogether after Sheprow revealed he would no longer serve as liaison to the Port Jefferson Country Club.

“I feel very strongly that I’ve had an impact on the resurgence of the country club,” Loucks said. He went on to say that he did not think he could “work any further with this board.” 

Village clerk Barbara Sakovich will leave the village government after more than 13 years in that role. Her retirement will take effect July 19. The trustees expressed their gratitude for her years of service. Silvia Pirillo will take over as the new clerk.

Sheprow appointed trustee Rebecca Kassay as deputy mayor and commissioner of environmental stability.

“It is an honor to step into the position of deputy mayor because it helps me better serve the village and work [especially with] flood resilience and climate studies,” Kassay said in an interview after the meeting. 

“I’ve been talking to organizations like [the United States Geological Survey], and having the title of deputy mayor shows that the village is taking these climate resilience issues very seriously,” she noted. “I’m very glad to be representing the village in this way.”

Trustee Bob Juliano will serve as commissioner of public works and parks. Loucks was appointed commissioner of recreation, and newly appointed trustee Drew Biondo will be commissioner of buildings and communications.

Harry Faulknor will continue as the Port Jefferson Harbor commissioner.

Sheprow will serve as commissioner of finance and public safety/court/code.

A motion to appoint Donald Pearce as village treasurer failed — he held the post previously before resigning in 2015. Juliano suggested that while Pearce is excellent to work with, he was displeased that Denise Mordente was not reappointed.

Code enforcement chief Andy Owen delivering his department’s monthly public safety report. Photo by Aidan Johnson

Public safety

The general meeting started with a brief presentation from Code Enforcement Bureau chief Andy Owen and chief of patrol James Murdocco.

Owen clarified that the code department does not save and store private information through its automatic license plate readers, which are used to identify if a car has a valid Port Jefferson parking permit or a meter is paid.

He also announced that foot patrols downtown would begin after this weekend’s Port Paws Dog Festival. Owen said he is also planning on starting a bike patrol unit.

In June, 60 incident reports were written, consisting of noise complaints, traffic conditions and public disturbances.

A total of 206 summonses were written in June for incidents such as uninspected vehicles, missing license plates, parking without a permit or overtime meter parking. 

Murdocco reported there have been over 200 incidents at the Port Jefferson train station since January, with many happening after 9 p.m.

Murdocco also announced the start of an informational Facebook page for the code bureau.

Public comment

During the public comment portion, held before the trustee reports, multiple residents voiced concerns about the potential overdevelopment of the park at Roosevelt Avenue. Myrna Gordon, along with other residents, suggested these developments would not be conducive to the area’s quiet character.

Sheprow announced a planned Parks and Rec Advisory Council meeting on July 26. All residents of the Roosevelt Avenue area are invited.

Michael Mart also touched upon the issue of transient housing — such as Airbnb facilities — in Port Jefferson, expressing a desire for the board to limit the rental time of a house to 30 days per renter.

After a resident asked how villagers could get involved with the different committees and task forces, Kassay said they are currently working on an online forum where residents could enter their information and the committees on which they would like to participate.


Juliano announced he would be starting office hours and that his door was always open. He also said that he gave the interim attorney a proposed code change so that when developers apply through the Industrial Development Agency for pilots or property tax exemptions, they would start at whatever they were paying now instead of at zero.

Biondo shared that he had toured a few of Port Jefferson’s facilities as the liaison to building and planning. He said he would discuss with the mayor and village attorney how they can streamline government processes.

Kassay said the Complete Streets and Walkability Plan is moving forward. She also said the board is still working on mitigating flooding challenges, though the problems cannot be eliminated. However, they are working on a study to see which areas need to be focused on for flood mitigation.

Kassay and Andrew Kelly, from Hauppauge-based VHB civil engineering company, are working on assisting grant writers with the documentation needed to apply to the New York State Environmental Protection Fund to progress to the next step for the planned Six Acre Park, which consists of taking a concept and making “show ready” plans for the park. 

Sheprow announced she had appointed an ethics attorney to update the village’s ethics code. She also said that she has met with representatives from Stony Brook University’s Student Affairs office, and they have expressed interest in using Port Jefferson as a “living laboratory.”

The Board of Trustees also passed a resolution to create a budget and finance committee, and has been working to recruit members of a short-term and long-term rental evaluation working group.

Sheprow added that the board is considering establishing a working group to advise on policies related to the Port Jefferson Power Station to explore declining public revenue and possible repowering.

The board will reconvene Monday, July 24, at 3:30 p.m.

The Golden Rule, a peace ship manned by Veterans for Peace, enters Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Aidan Johnson

The Golden Rule, a peace ship operated by Veterans for Peace, docked in Port Jeff on Friday, May 26, encouraging conversations about ending wars, raising environmental consciousness and promoting nuclear disarmament.

Over a dozen people welcomed the vessel into Port Jeff Harbor. As it arrived, crew members, led by Captain Steve Buck, symbolically asked permission to dock and come ashore from members of the Setalcott Nation. This Native American tribe had initially inhabited the land. 

Myrna Gordon, a member of the North Country Peace Group and coordinator of the docking ceremony, said plans for the event were in the works for over four months. NCPG had also collaborated with the South Country Peace Group and the Conscience Bay Quakers, among other local peace groups.

Veterans for Peace were looking for a North Shore harbor to dock their ship. When their original plans to bring their boat to Northport didn’t work out, Port Jefferson was suggested. 

“I jumped on board and said this is the most beautiful harbor on the North Shore,” Gordon said. “We have a park. We have all the facilities. We have an agreeable government who will willingly accept the boat for a few days.” 

After docking, Catherine Green, a representative of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), read a proclamation in which the Suffolk County Legislature recognized the efforts of the crew of the Golden Rule in the cause of peace on earth. Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) also presented a proclamation on behalf of Brookhaven, establishing the date as Veterans for Peace Day.

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden presenting Mark Sternberg, Culper Spy Ring historian at the Drowned Meadow Cottage, with a village proclamation. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees met on Monday, March 6, with a public meeting covering the East Beach bluff, youth programs, irrigation systems and public safety.

The board continued planning for the phase II upland wall project between the East Beach bluff and the restaurant facility at Port Jefferson Country Club, approving a modification to its drainage plan to accommodate racket sports facilities for $5,500.

Approaching its budget season, the board adopted a local law to enable it to approve a budget with a tax levy that exceeds the default tax levy under New York’s General Municipal Law. The local law passed 3-1, with Mayor Margot Garant absent and trustee Lauren Sheprow voting against it.

The board deliberated with Lisa Perry, president of the village-based nonprofit Long Island Foundation for Education & Sports, a children and family services group which rents a room in the Village Center.

The village lowered the room’s rental rate from $42 to $35 per hour following the COVID-19 pandemic to assist LIFFES with its expenses. Perry emphasized the program is a service to the community.

Following some back-and-forth, the board passed a resolution to continue billing the nonprofit at a $35 per hour rate for the remainder of LIFFES’ spring season. The two parties would revisit the rates for its fall season by May.

Suffolk County police officer John Efstathiou delivered the department’s report on public safety, noting the problem of vehicular theft throughout the area.

“Let’s lock our cars,” he said. “Let’s keep our cars locked in our driveways. Let’s lock them when you park in a parking lot because people are out here stealing many items from people’s vehicles.” He added, “Do not leave your keys in the car.”

Resident Arthur Epp inquired about xylazine — also known as tranq — an animal tranquilizer appearing in fentanyl supplies throughout the country. 

Efstathiou said the 6th Precinct “has not seen that yet.” Because Narcan does not help in instances of xylazine overdose, he suggested the substance would remain on the department’s radar.

Acting code enforcement chief John Borrero during the code department’s monthly public safety report on Monday, March 6. Photo by Raymond Janis

Acting code enforcement chief John Borrero delivered the code department’s report. He took over as acting chief following the suspension with pay of Fred Leute last month. 

Borrero reported a recent incident of two Rottweilers attacking a small dog. “They tore him up pretty good,” the acting chief said, adding that the owner received two citations. 

Borrero urged, “Please keep your dogs tied up.”

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden reported that the Jericho-based Beechwood Organization is in its final stages of closing on the Maryhaven property, with plans to convert that area to residential housing.

“Their plan is to build condos on that site,” Snaden said. “We have a lot of apartments being built uptown. We had some apartment buildings down here, but these will be owner-owned condos.” The deputy mayor added that Beechwood would soon submit its application to the zoning and planning departments.

Trustee Rebecca Kassay reported that the village is exploring potential solutions to the drought problem on Long Island, considering irrigating the golf course at PJCC using rainwater.

“This is the direction everyone seems to be going in,” she said. “The water situation has been serious.”

Trustee Stan Loucks reported that permits are now available for kayak racks. “If you have a kayak, canoe or vessel, you can pick up your applications right now,” he said. “The lottery for those racks will take place on April 3.” He added, “Hopefully, we have enough racks this year, so we don’t really freeze anyone out.”

He also reported that the walkways at Harborfront Park would be renovated in the coming weeks, with discussions in the works for rerouting some.

Trustee Sheprow said the Parks and Recreation Advisory Council approved the date of Aug. 17 for the village’s annual community golf outing at a rate of $75 per player.

“Whoever wants to play who lives or works [in the village], volunteers for the fire department, working in the school district, works at the hospitals is welcome to participate in that golf outing,” she said, adding, “It was very successful last year.”  

During the meeting, Snaden presented Drowned Meadow Cottage historian Mark Sternberg with a village proclamation for his research connecting Port Jefferson to the Culper Spy Ring.

Following the presentation, Sternberg delivered a brief address thanking those for supporting him in his historical endeavors and discussing the momentum behind the village’s local history.

“The energy with the cottage is so incredible, and I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t see smiles on so many people’s faces that are coming through,” he said. “It’s been an incredible ride, and I can’t wait to continue it.”

During the public comments, resident Myrna Gordon petitioned the village board to consider banning single-use plastic containers, particularly for village-sponsored events. 

“I would hope that an ordinance or request can be made that the only kind of containers that can be used are environmentally friendly or paper products,” Gordon said. “We have to do away with the plastic.”

Despite the chiseled blocks of ice stationed around the village, downtown Port Jefferson was red hot last weekend during the 4th annual Port Jefferson Ice Festival, hosted by the village’s Business Improvement District.

This two-day celebration took place on Jan. 28 and 29, bringing together several local institutions, dozens of small businesses and a whole lot of ice. Roger Rutherford, Port Jefferson BID president and general manager of Roger’s Frigate, summarized the boost the festival brought to storefronts.

“This is the slowest time of the year for the business community,” he said. “This is our fourth annual, and it has really taken off and turned into something spectacular.”

Making the festivities possible required significant organizational collaboration between the BID and its partners. The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce assisted by facilitating a mac ’n’ cheese crawl. 

With 12 participating restaurants, the crawl offered festivalgoers a chance to taste various cuisines from food establishments around the village. 

“This is the second year they asked us to be the administrators for the mac ’n’ cheese crawl,” said chamber executive director Barbara Ransome. “They go to 12 places. It’s four ounces of mac ’n’ cheese [per stop], so you’re talking three pounds [in all].” She added, “It’s a lot of mac ’n’ cheese.”

Thousands flocked to the village to partake in the fun, including trustee Stan Loucks who projected the weekend as one of the highest local turnouts on record.

“I have never seen so many people in our village,” he said. “The merchants were extremely happy with the crowd. They did very well this weekend, and I think it was terrific to see that many people walking around our village.”

James Luciano, owner of PJ Lobster House, reacted to the festival’s success in stimulating small businesses.

“This festival brings in a lot of business for us,” he said. “This time of year, you’re lucky to get a couple of tables for lunch and a couple of bar customers.” But, he added, “We’ve been full since we opened the door.”


‘The businesses were thriving, the restaurants were full.’

— Kathianne Snaden

The sizable show gave much-needed relief to storefront owners still recovering from the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost three years ago, the world and nation were shocked by the outbreak of the pandemic, leaving downtowns such as Port Jeff’s in disarray.

Indu Kaur is the owner of the Curry Club at SāGhar in Port Jefferson, an establishment that opened in February 2020, just weeks before the lockdowns. 

“We took over the business and had no idea that we were going to be shut down,” Kaur said, describing the impact of the pandemic on her business as “a huge tragedy.”

In the face of hardship, Kaur and her staff continued operations by donating meals, then reopened in the fall of that year. With a historic turnout villagewide, Kaur regarded the resurgence of the downtown businesses with delight.

“It’s so exciting to see everyone walking around, enjoying our village, enjoying the new restaurants, the new shows and our ice sculptures,” she said.

Outside Kaur’s restaurant lay a decorative ice sculpture depicting Ganesha, a Hindu deity tying into the theme of local renaissance. “Lord Ganesha is the statue that we all have faith brings prosperity, happiness and peace,” she said.


Ganesha was just one of a few dozen ice sculptures displayed throughout the village. Many visitors stood and posed with the ice, which was often interactive. Some sculptures depicted animals, others tied in with the businesses for which they were custom made. 

Rich Daly, president and owner of Ice Memories, has created sculptures during each of the festival’s four iterations. He discussed the considerable effort and material that made it all possible.

“We do live carvings and have about 90,000 pounds worth of ice set up throughout town,” supplied by Riverhead-based Long Island Ice, Daly said. “Every year, we add more ice and more activities for everybody to do.”

Daly got interested in ice sculpting during culinary school, where he first received an ice carving assignment. “Once they put a chainsaw in my hands, I just never let it go,” he said.

Given how a sculpture shapeshifts and reforms during the different melting stages, the temporality and mutability of the ice medium offer both challenge and opportunity for creative expression.

“It’s a temporary art form, which makes it unique,” Daly said. “Especially on a day like today or a weekend like this, Mother Nature just doesn’t want the ice to be around,” adding, “As it melts, it just kind of changes and transforms, and it’s pretty cool.”

Daly said the process is relatively straightforward for those interested in carving ice. Blocks of ice, he said, can be acquired at most ice plants on Long Island. “It doesn’t take a crazy amount of money to buy tools,” he said. “Just have at it. Start [carving] whatever inspires you.”

Tip of the iceberg

Spring-like temperatures and melting points played a prominent role throughout the festival, with some environmentalists ringing the alarm about the threat of climate change. 

Posted along Main, a small group of protesters lined the sidewalks with signs that read: “There is no planet ‘B’” and “Be nice, save the ice.” Holly Fils-Aime, president of the local environmental group EcoLeague, discussed how the melting sculptures signal a dangerous trend. 

“The fact that these sculptures didn’t last the day because it’s so warm out here in January is a great teaching device,” Fils-Aime said.

Picketing alongside Fils-Aime was village resident Myrna Gordon, who stressed the importance of local government in identifying environmental problems and implementing science-based solutions. 

“In my own village here in Port Jefferson, I think that a lot more has to be done with environmental issues,” she said. “Having an ice festival is wonderful — bringing people to the village, helping the businesses. But we also need to focus on very, very serious issues that are happening here.”

Frozen in time

Through the ice fest, scores of people interacted with the various facets of the community. While there wasn’t an ice sculpture outside the Bayles Boat Shop, boat builders continued their work on the Resolution whaleboat project. 

“We’re in the finalizing stages of lofting,” said John Janicek, treasurer of the boat shop. After that, the buildout of the keel and stem can commence.

As the whaleboat enters a pivotal moment in its buildout process, the village is undergoing a transition of its own, moving into the post-pandemic era. With downtown thriving once again, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden gave her thoughts on these positive developments.

“It was incredible to see so many people enjoy the village this time of year,” she said. “The businesses were thriving, the restaurants were full. There were shoppers and diners, and it was great to see the comeback.”

Screenshot from portjeff.com/opentodayvideo/

Over a decade since disbanding, the Port Jefferson Civic Association was back in action Monday, Jan. 9.

Eighteen village residents filled the Meeting Room of the Port Jefferson Free Library, discussing several pressing local issues and establishing their priorities as a body.

Michael Mart was a member of PJCA under its previous configuration. He shared a history of the organization and why village residents have banded together in the past.

“The history and importance of the Port Jefferson Civic Association, as I recall it, was to serve as a vehicle by which individuals come together,” Mart said. “Its concerns are essentially local in nature: streets, safety, recreation, parks and open government.”

He added the civic association “acts to represent opinions, concerns and agendas of its members to the local governing body.”

Mart said PJCA has functioned in various capacities in the past. At one time, it had produced a regular newsletter, held meet-the-candidates events, offered scholarships to local students and even took the village government to court.

PJCA was “a very active group,” Mart said. “It starts small here, like in this room, and makes itself known to other residents, offering to give voice to their concerns.”

The members of the newly formed civic gave introductions, outlined their reasons for joining and discussed their priorities. 

Ana Hozyainova, a 2022 candidate for village trustee, organized the event. She stated her goals for the civic body.

“I hope that we can have a group that can be a force for discussion and greater transparency in the village,” she said. 

Myrna Gordon discussed communications between the village and residents and other environmental themes. “I would love to see better transparency or communication and more of our village residents getting involved in the important issues that we face,” she said.

Other residents echoed the call for greater transparency within the village government. 

Among them, a 2022 trustee candidate for the Port Jefferson school board, Paul Ryan, identified a supposed divide between the public will and the decisions made by elected officials.

“Since I ran for the BOE last year, I’ve noticed a lot of disconnect between what people want and think is important and what is happening, the decisions that are being made,” he said. “I hope as a civic association, we can channel that voice more strongly and more effectively to make positive change.”

Suzanne Velazquez, candidate for village trustee in 2021, spoke of the “sense of apathy that has crept in” among residents. She also considered the civic association as fulfilling a necessary community end. 

“I have had a lot of good conversations about the need to revitalize the civic association,” the former trustee candidate said.

Holly Fils-Aime, president of the local environmental group EcoLeague, described continual development within the village as among her priorities. 

“We really have to consider how overdeveloped Long Island is,” she said, adding that residents must be vigilant about looking out for their forests, wildlife and the natural environment.

Steve Velazquez echoed this sentiment. He criticized the alleged overdevelopment of Upper Port, arguing that plans for the property that formerly accommodated PJ Lobster House are “not in character with this village.” Velazquez expressed a desire to see a “true historic district” within Port Jeff village.

In common, those in attendance voiced similar concerns over the perceived lack of transparency, environmental issues and the implementation of projects without resident input. Bluff stabilization at East Beach, according to Mart, encompasses each of these themes.

Referencing the $3.75 million the village recently received to construct an upper wall between the East Beach bluff and the Port Jefferson Country Club clubhouse, Mart said the money “is not the issue — the issue is that we didn’t get to vote on it.”

Also in attendance was guest speaker John Turner, conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society. He advocated for a villagewide open-space program along with a sustainability plan.

Turner pinpointed specific examples on Long Island of progress concerning the environment. He cited the novel irrigation system at Indian Island Golf Course in Riverhead, which uses wastewater from a sewage treatment plant to irrigate the golf course. 

“That wastewater is no longer dumped in the river and the bay,” Turner said. “The nitrogen is all taken up by the grass,” averting contamination of local surface waters. He suggested the village could explore comparable wastewater reuse opportunities.

He added, “The other beauty about this water reuse, from a water quantity perspective, is that we have water quantity challenges on the Island. … Using that water for the golf course means that 66 million gallons of water stay in the ground.”

Expressing her vision for the civic, Gordon said the organization could prevail so long as its members stay persistent. “You have to stay the course,” she said. “We can’t get tired. We have to support each other, we have to ask questions, and we have to go in front of our village trustees and ask, ‘What is going on?’”

Above, members of North Country Peace Group on Saturday, Dec. 10. Photo by Raymond Janis

This month, North Country Peace Group marks its 20th anniversary.

Posted at the southeast corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in Setauket, NCPG has maintained a visible weekly presence within the community, advocating various causes throughout its history. On Saturday, Dec. 10, some members reflected on this milestone year for their organization and discussed why they remain committed to their cause.


Bob Becherer was among the founding members of the peace group. He traces the organization’s origins beyond 20 years when, in the early 1990s, a group of civic-oriented parishioners of the St. James R.C. Church formed the Peace and Justice Community.

“It was really out of that group that we became the North Country Peace Group,” Becherer said, crediting Bill McNulty as the founder and leader of both organizations.

In an exclusive interview, McNulty chronicled his “traditional, apolitical” upbringing and his eventual reawakening. Growing up, he said he maintained a 16-year connection to the military. Between U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, ROTC, active duty and active reserve service, McNulty kept in close contact with the military and military culture. Over time, however, he began to question these ties.

Catalyzing McNulty’s transformation was America’s foreign policy throughout Latin America during the 1970s and ’80s. His early advocacy work centered around the School of the Americas, a training ground founded as a bulwark against the spread of communism. Over time, McNulty said, the school devolved. A string of murders and rapes connected to the School of the Americas prompted him into action.

During that time, McNulty said he devoted his energies to “increase the knowledge among the American population that this school existed and that we were, through our tax dollars, paying for training for these soldiers.” His resistance led him to a federal prison, where he served for six months.

Within the full swing of these events, McNulty soon got involved with the Peace and Justice Community, initially focusing on America’s involvement in Iraq during the Persian Gulf War (1990-91). As the PJC’s work took on more secular aims, they moved out of the church and onto the streets. NCPG emerged from the second Iraq War (2003-11). 

Organizational principles

Above, Bill McNulty, one of the founders and thought leaders within NCPG. Photo courtesy Myrna Gordon

McNulty offered some of the philosophical precepts underpinning the NCPG’s activism. He said the group seeks to challenge conventional wisdom, to prompt community members to think critically about the information authorities give them. Through this, he said the group has often met fierce resistance from dogmatists and partisans.

“Very often, when you bring a message that’s contrary to the conventional wisdom, they get angry at you,” he said. “They don’t want to hear what you have to offer because it’s very startling and shocking. There’s a cognitive dissonance.”

McNulty maintained that NCPG, since its inception, has rejected the notion of reciprocal violence. “The Old Testament thinking of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, you have to break it with that idea of love and acceptance,” he said.

He viewed the human propensity toward violence as a conflict between instincts and ideals. Though he held that most people are born peaceful and good, he sees many as conditioned to accept violence and war as the natural order.

“People, I think, are pretty good, but they acquire a lot of these characteristics as a result of what they experience in life,” he said. “Down deep, people are good because they always act well when the dog falls down the well or when the tornado rips the roof off the house.”

McNulty said that overcoming aggression requires conscious effort, but doing so may be the recipe for lasting peace. “The idea is to take the words of the song, the words of the poem, to take the suggestion of the painting or the sculpture or whatever else and to put it into practice,” he said. “It’s a very hard job.”

Two decades into the struggle for peace

One of the essential features of NCPG throughout its 20-year history has been the persistence of its members. Member Susan Perretti regards the organization as a weekly reminder to the community that there is an alternative to unceasing human conflicts worldwide.

“We’re sort of a reminder to the community that passes us by,” she said. “It’s a reminder that we still have war — endless war — going on and that violence itself is not the answer.”

Robert Marcus, another NCPG member, said the fight for peace and preserving democracy go hand in hand. He said that standing on the street corner is a way to promote both ends.

“We have to do everything we can to make a more peaceful world,” Marcus said. “We can’t just take it for granted. We have to work really hard for peace and to strengthen our democracy because it’s under threat.”

For John Robinson, participating in the peace group’s various activities is a way to connect to a larger cause and to make a difference on a grander stage. “It feels good to be around people who have the same concerns, the same thoughts, the same issues that I do,” he said. “Coming out here makes a real statement about the need for peace and the need to treat each other well.”

Myrna Gordon said she and NCPG use their platform to advocate a new mode of thinking around the way the United States government spends its taxpayer dollars. According to her, too great a share of the federal budget is devoted to perpetuating violence.

“We need to move the money out of the military and back into human needs and human lives so that we will have that money and be able to fix roads, provide better education, health care and everything else,” she said.

An alternative to war

‘We have to evolve past this idea — as a human species and not just as Americans — that war and killing one another is the only solution.’

— Susan Perretti

McNulty was asked if he believes a lasting peace is possible or if humanity is doomed to a fate of unending war. He admitted that lasting peace may not be attainable but that pursuing such an ideal is.

“We would like to hope that it is possible,” he said. “We helped each other to a great extent, and we have affected a few people around our immediate neighborhood, but they’re still making war. The School of the Americas is still open, still training soldiers to keep people under control.”

Perretti offered a slightly different take by suggesting humanity could adapt itself to a condition without war.

“The point is that we have to evolve past this idea — as a human species and not just as Americans — that war and killing one another is the only solution,” she said. “I don’t know what that takes, but for me I’m here because I won’t give up the struggle, and I want to be faithful to what I believe in my heart.”

Whether humans can coexist and overcome violence is still to be decided. Twenty years after their organization’s founding, members of North Country Peace Group remain stationed at their usual street corner, committed to giving peace its fair shake.