Tags Posts tagged with "Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees"

Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees

Xena Ugrinsky. Photo courtesy Ugrinsky’s LinkedIn page

By Aidan Johnson

Port Jefferson resident Xena Ugrinsky has announced her bid for the village board of trustees.

Ugrinsky served as the head of financial reporting, budgeting and planning at Young & Rubicam, a New York advertising agency/public relations firm. After becoming involved in the software and technology fields, she worked with clients in the utility industry. She moved into management consulting with national companies including Arizona Power, PG&E, Con Edison and National Grid.

She described her background in a letter to The Port Times Record editor on June 29 last year: “The proudest day of my life was when my parents and I took the oath to become citizens of the United States. I was 8 years old. As a Russian emigrant, my father applied for and received a Tolstoy grant, which sponsored our family’s journey to America. They arrived on these shores with a baby, a box of books and dreams for a brighter future.”

In an interview, Ugrinsky, who currently sits on the village’s Budget and Finance Committee, said that she was running for trustee because “I’ve reached a point in my career where I want to give back to the community I live in.”

One of her major issues is figuring out the future of the Port Jefferson power plant. 

“My goal was to figure out a way that I could help the village be involved in the broader conversation, and I believe we have a moment in time where we have the opportunity to be in the forefront of what is happening in energy,” said Ugrinsky, who also sits on the village’s Power Plant Working Group. She suggested the plant could be used to start producing “green hydrogen.” 

Ugrinsky said that while she may not have the solution for how to handle the power plant’s future, she is trying to “create a collective conversation among all of the stakeholders so that Port Jeff has a voice, has visibility into what’s happening and, in a best case scenario, can become a beacon to the rest of the United States for innovative power.”

“Let’s collectively figure out what we need to build so that Port Jefferson has a future with this power plant,” she said.

Ugrinsky’s other key issues include fiscal responsibility and transparency. She believes that Mayor Lauren Sheprow has increased transparency, including establishing an ethics board, along with other volunteer committees.

The election for the trustees is on Tuesday, June 18.

The Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees held its biweekly business meeting on Monday, Aug. 21, accompanied by a public hearing to consider adding north- and south-facing stop signs on the west and east sides of Scraggy Hill Road.

Public hearing

Situated at Scraggy Hill Road is the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School. Speed tables currently help to slow traffic around the school.

Village attorney David Moran explained the purpose behind the public hearing, stating that adding or removing all village stop signs requires an amendment to the village code, “and in order to add a stop sign to the village, you have to go through this process.”

During the public hearing, Ray DiBiase, the village’s Planning Board chair and a nationally certified traffic operations engineer, noted the issue of people driving around the speed tables on the roadway. “My first inclination would be to extend those speed tables,” he suggested.

Several neighbors turned out Monday night, shedding light on the situation. Stella Cohen reported that village stop signs are routinely disregarded and that the issue could only be resolved with adequate traffic enforcement.

“I have no objection to this motion whatsoever, but it’s paying lip service to a problem you’re not going to fix with a stop sign,” Cohen said. “I would respectfully ask the board, in addition to considering this motion, to also [consider] a motion on a future date for speed cameras.”

Ernie Geiger, another resident, summarized the “nightmare” situation around the elementary school. He advised the board to hire a traffic specialist. 

“I think that what you’re looking at now is the tip of the iceberg, and I really don’t think that stop signs are going to do any good at this point,” he told the board. “I think somebody should look at it, look at the signage that’s there and make an intelligent decision instead of just throwing up two stop signs.”

Ryan Walker, a trustee of the Port Jefferson School District Board of Education who said he was speaking as a resident, advised the board that additional signage could complicate “traffic patterns that are already a mess.” 

Instead, he proposed coordinating with the Suffolk County Police Department for more traffic enforcement along the roadway.

Following the public comments, the board did not hold a vote on the proposed code amendment to add the stop signs.

Members of the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees deliberate during a business meeting Monday, Aug. 21. From left, Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay and Mayor Lauren Sheprow with trustees Drew Biondo, Bob Juliano and Stan Loucks. Photo by Raymond Janis

Audit report

Christopher Reino, a partner at the Port Jefferson Station-based Cullen & Danowski — the firm that conducts the village’s annual independent audit — delivered a presentation on the report from the 2022 fiscal year.

Mayor Lauren Sheprow said the audit report was presented to the treasurer’s office on Jan. 4, 2023, noting, “That report was addressed to the Board of Trustees.” 

“Upon canvassing,” the mayor said she had discovered that “the current board members who were board members on Jan. 4, 2023, had not seen that report.”

Moran remarked upon “another flaw in the process,” indicating that when a village uses an outside audit firm and files with the village clerk, “there needs to be a public notice that that report is available at Village Hall for anyone to come and review it,” adding, “As far as I know, that hasn’t happened either.”

During his presentation, Reino reported that the village’s fiscal health has “been looking positive.”

“The fund balance has been growing,” he said. “You actually have a balanced budget now — in the past, you were using some of your existing fund balance to fund the budget, but right now, you’re pretty much at a break even.”

Revenues, he added, are aligned with expenditures, suggesting that the village currently has “a realistic budget.” The “only concern I had,” Reino said, was the lack of “a complete inventory,” which could assist the village in conducting insurance appraisals.

East Beach bluff 

Conversations continued over the two-phased bluff stabilization project at East Beach. 

For the proposed upland wall to fortify the restaurant/catering facility of the Port Jefferson Country Club, Sheprow reported that the village government is still “waiting on a response from [the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration] to see if that [$3.75 million] grant is coming through.” [See story, “Schumer secures funds for upper wall at PJCC…” Jan. 11, TBR News Media website.]

The current engineering plans include the addition of steel beams, according to Sheprow, who estimated that they could cost the village approximately $18,000 per beam.

The board approved an add-on resolution approving services from Huntington Station-based engineering firm GEI Consultants for up to $9,200, which Sheprow contended could help the village save hundreds of thousands of dollars on the upper wall project.

“What GEI is being asked to do is take a look at that project description to see if the removal of all those beams would work,” the mayor said. “The supposition is that that would still work and perhaps even make it more stable.”

She added that the modification in engineering plans could save the village roughly $300,000 on the upper wall project, “spending a few thousand to save a few hundred thousand.”

To watch the entire meeting, including trustee reports, please see the video above.

Photo courtesy Kathianne Snaden
By Kathianne Snaden

Dear Friends and Neighbors of Port Jefferson,

As I’m writing to you today, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of purpose and determination, the kind that comes from years of being not just a public servant, but a fellow resident, a neighbor and a friend. 

Since I chose to move to Port Jeff almost 20 years ago, this beautiful community has been our shared home. I began my journey of getting involved with a simple, heartfelt desire — to make a positive difference right here, in our own backyard.

From being a trustee and then your deputy mayor, I’ve had the privilege of serving us all, sharing in our joys, our challenges and our victories. It’s been a labor of love, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and revisit some of the milestones we’ve achieved together.

One of the greatest benefits I have experienced as a public servant is the opportunity to collaborate with numerous individuals and groups within the village. Working together, these efforts resulted in achievements that directly benefit our residents; here’s some of what we’ve accomplished together:

• Built solid connections with our school district because we all believe in providing the best for our children.

• Taken a stand for safety, putting in place new village code to curb dangerous bicycle riding, because every single one of us deserves to feel safe in our neighborhood.

• Successfully lowered the crime rate in our village as reported by SCPD.

• Made strides in convenience, with the new parking lot on Barnum Avenue — the first in 40 years, making our community even more accessible.

• Embraced the future with the launch of Passport — Port Jefferson’s first resident ride share service, because we’ve always been about community and supporting each other.

• Kept our local businesses thriving, collaborating on the Ice Festival during the off-season, because we understand the importance of supporting local merchants.

• Held onto our roots, working with the Architectural Review Committee to ensure new constructions preserve the historic charm of our village, because we all love the unique character of the place we call home.

• Added pocket parks, planting beds, addressed graffiti and littering and added holiday decorations all in an effort to make and keep our village beautiful.

• And most importantly, we’ve stayed responsive, resolving community issues promptly, often within 24 hours, because your concerns are my concerns, too.

Every step of the way, my aim has been to make our beloved Port Jefferson Village even more of a safe, beautiful place that we all are proud to call home.

The recent election didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped, and it’s been a humbling and enlightening experience. It’s made me reflect and realize that I could have done a better job of communicating my intentions and plans. But let’s remember, this isn’t an end — it’s a new chapter. 

For those of you who supported me, I can’t thank you enough and for those that didn’t feel they could support me in this election, I thank you as well for providing me with your perspective. Please know that I remain committed to being an advocate for everyone and standing up for our community.

We will continue to learn from our shared experiences, sticking together and serving our community with renewed commitment. 

It’s often said that when one door closes another door opens. With this hopeful message, I’m looking forward to the future and the many different opportunities it will bring for us all.

Thank you for being such an integral part of this journey. I’m excited to see where it takes us next.

With warmth and appreciation,

Kathianne Snaden

The writer served as Village of Port Jefferson trustee from 2019-23, including one term as deputy mayor, 2021-23.

Village attorney Brian Egan, above, during a Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees work session on Tuesday, April 25. Photo by Raymond Janis

Conversations on the Maryhaven Center of Hope property at Myrtle Avenue picked up on Tuesday, April 25, to be followed by a public hearing scheduled for next week on Monday, May 1.

During a work session of the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees, the Maryhaven debate evolved into a game of tradeoffs and compromises, the board working to encourage the preservation and adaptive reuse of the historic building on-site through incentives.

Among the agreed-upon incentives package to preserve the structure, the board settled upon allowing for additional stories and height. The board, primarily at the direction of trustee Rebecca Kassay, remained unwilling to allow for further clearing of woodlands on the property.

The building “has a lot of meaning to the community, the Maryhaven complex,” said Mayor Margot Garant in an interview. She added the board’s current direction represents “an effort to give incentives so that the Planning Board can do their job with the applicant while preserving a historic building.”

The board is working on revising Section 250-15 of the Village Code. Village attorney Brian Egan clarified the proposed code changes. While Maryhaven is currently zoned as a Professional Office P-O District, the existing zoning code enables applicants within the P-O district to apply for rezoning for Moderate-Density Residence R-M District development through a special-use permit.

The proposed new section of the code aims to encourage applicants to preserve historic buildings and structures on their properties.

The Maryhaven “building is pretty special with the red and the views and the copper — it’s a special place,” Egan said. “But developers don’t care about that. Developers don’t care about special, so how do you give them an idea to motivate them to be special?”

To do that, the village attorney proposed a modification to the zoning code that covers the conditions of the special-use permit for parcels that contribute to the architectural or aesthetic character of the village. 

“It’s kind of giving a tradeoff,” he said. “We say that if you have a contributing, architecturally and aesthetically important parcel or building … then you can have a proposed loosening of some of the standards that would normally apply in R-M.”

The loosening of those standards went under scrutiny during the meeting, with board members going back and forth over which incentives are permissible. 

“If we don’t provide enough of an incentive, they’re just going to take this building down,” Garant said. “And if not this applicant, the next one.”

Going through each of the zoning parameters under the code, the board fixed its attention on clearing permits in particular.

Throughout the exchanges, the trustees wrestled with establishing a coherent policy that accounts for the competing values of preserving historic structures, limiting clearing and making such redevelopment initiatives cost-effective for developers.

The current P-O limit for clearing is 65%. Noting some of the general trends on clearing allowances as well as the recent village history, Kassay remained firm on not granting developers any additional allowances on clearing.

“This is something that we’ve seen our community get very upset over,” the trustee said, expressing zero tolerance for additional clearing “because we are offering these other incentives.”

Those perks would be an extra story and added height on the property, a tradeoff of density for environmental conservation and historic preservation. The board agreed to change the maximum number of stories to four and the maximum height of the structure to 47 feet.

Following the meeting, Garant summarized the conclusions of the work session. “We did not permit additional clearing” under the new incentives package, the mayor said. “If you can’t give more clearing and you want to have something built there, another tradeoff instead of sprawling it is making it more dense, giving it height.”

The mayor added that the incentives allow for “something that conforms to the preexisting building.”

The board will continue this conversation in just days with a scheduled public hearing on the matter on Monday, May 1. The general meeting of the board will begin at 6 p.m.

VHB landscape architect Andrew Kelly, above, presented three concept plans to the Six Acre Park Committee and the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees. Photo by Raymond Janis

With an approaching May 1 public hearing on the Maryhaven Center of Hope property on Myrtle Avenue, tensions are simmering within the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees.

During an April 18 business meeting, trustee Lauren Sheprow clashed with Mayor Margot Garant and members of her administration over “the process” in which potential zoning code changes have been handled to date. This dispute comes as the village enters the heart of election season, with decisions over term extensions, term limits and election administration hanging in the balance.

The Six Acre Park Committee also inched closer toward a concept plan for the last remaining tract of undeveloped open space in Upper Port.


‘We’d like to see the building be maintained or preserved somehow.’

— Margot Garant

As the village board prepares for the highly anticipated May 1 public hearing, Sheprow is at odds with some of her colleagues over how decisions with the property have been advanced. “I’m wondering about the process,” she said.

Responding, Garant said deliberations over Maryhaven predate Sheprow’s entry to the board in July 2022 as the previous board held a work session approximately 18 months ago with Alison LaPointe, former special village attorney for building and planning. At the time, LaPointe had advised the board to consider rezoning the property, the mayor said.

Gradually, the matter has become a question of historic preservation as maintaining the existing building is in the village’s interest, Garant added. 

“We’d like to see the building be maintained or preserved somehow,” the mayor said.

Village attorney Brian Egan gave additional context, saying the process began in 2019 when Catholic Health notified the village it would sell the property. The issue, Egan noted, lingered for some time though Garant started pushing for the structure’s preservation.

“It became the village’s initiative — the mayor’s initiative — of engaging with Catholic Health, saying, ‘We’re going to work toward trying to save that building,’” Egan said. “That was really impetuous and got us to this point to say, ‘How can we save the building for an adaptive reuse as opposed to putting it all into a landfill.’”

He continued, “The policy of the Village of Port Jefferson — hopefully, if this board adopts it — is to preserve the historic building that’s on it and encourage its adaptive reuse as opposed to demolition.” Egan added, “The ideal process is to draft the zoning that this board wants to see, and make the developers work to that standard.”

Sheprow expressed her appreciation for Egan’s clarification, adding, “I appreciate that explanation very much, just would have loved to have had that before opening it up for a public hearing so that we all kind of understood the entirety of the concept.”

The board agreed to set a work session on Tuesday, April 25, at 2 p.m. to discuss the matter further.


Trustee Rebecca Kassay reported she had received resident interest in creating a task force to oversee the restructuring of village government and elections, exploring issues such as term limits and extensions, change of election month and counting ballots by hand or machine.

Sheprow shared that PJV is working to obtain a document from the Village of Southampton for reference. Southampton “had a panel that went through this process,” she said. “So maybe we can use that document as a guide to help look at best practices.”

Conversations surrounding election changes were prompted by a notification from the Suffolk County Board of Elections that its electronic voting machines would not be made available to the village, to be used instead for primary elections this June.

Sheprow inquired whether the village could rent or purchase voting machines to administer the upcoming June 20 election for village mayor and trustees, especially as at least two other Long Island villages will be using such devices.

Egan clarified the legality of this proposal. The village attorney cited the New York State Election Law, which bars villages from renting machines from vendors outside their county BOE.

“It’s not a question of the integrity of the machines,” the village attorney said. “It’s a question about whether the Election Law will allow us to do it, and the Election Law is very clear that it does not, and [the New York Conference of Mayors] is very clear that it does not.”

Six Acre Park

The Six Acre Park Committee met with the board, along with representatives of the Hauppauge-based civil engineering company VHB, toward finalizing conceptual plans for the 6-acre parcel along Highlands Boulevard.

‘Projects like this have been proven to greatly increase the safety and security of an area.’

— Rebecca Kassay

Garant outlined the committee’s purpose and the current status of the project. “The whole reason why we got this structure in place with the committee and the design team of VHB is because there’s a New York State grant that we are positioning ourselves to make an application for,” the mayor said. “We’re just trying to get to that point where we have what we need to make a submission.”

Andrew Kelly, a VHB landscape architect, presented three concept plans to the committee and board. Kelly said most spaces within the 6 acres would be open, tree-lined areas with native plantings. All options accommodate a realignment of, and on-street parking along, Highlands Boulevard.

Plans are to include security lighting, Kelly said. Kassay, trustee liaison to the Six Acre Park Committee, added that transitioning this area into parkland would discourage people from camping on-site.

“Projects like this have been proven to greatly increase the safety and security of an area,” she said.

The next steps are to decide upon a conceptual plan, likely integrating elements of all three concept proposals presented during the meeting. The mayor added that the board would soon return for a final round of public input as it completes the conceptual planning phase.

To watch the entire presentation on Six Acre Park, see the video above.

Correction: In the print version of this story, we reported an incorrect time for the upcoming Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees work session on the Maryhaven Center of Hope property.
The work session will take place on Tuesday, April 25, at 2 p.m. at Port Jefferson Village Hall. We apologize for the error.

Pictured above, left to right: Village of Port Jefferson trustee Rebecca Kassay; trustee Lauren Sheprow; Mayor Margot Garant; Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden; and trustee Stan Loucks. Photos by Raymond Janis

The Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees unanimously approved the annual budget Monday evening, April 3, though appropriations weren’t top of mind for the sea of residents crowding the boardroom.

Dozens turned out to confront the board over its recent decision to extend the terms of service for village offices from two to four years — a decision it promptly reversed. Less than 90 days until village elections, the community and board instead now grapple with the competing demands of streamlining election administration and public oversight over term changes.

“We wanted to kind of say ‘sorry’ and take a giant step backward,” Mayor Margot Garant told the public.

Upon rescinding the resolution, the mayor noted the need to relieve village clerk Barbara Sakovich in administering the coming June elections, adding that neighboring municipalities have generally implemented such changes. 

“Probably the majority of other townships and municipalities — villages specifically — have their elections in March and have moved to four-year terms,” she said. “I think it’s the direction we may all agree to at some point,” but the board is “taking pause” before rendering further judgment.

Trustee Rebecca Kassay offered to begin exploring how other municipalities procedurally implemented term changes, keeping open the possibility of forming a committee to collect public input on the matter. 

“Please look probably to the next meeting if you want to get this going while everyone has it in mind,” she said, adding the board “will be talking more about the process of helping to gather resident input and really handing it to the residents to make these decisions.”

In the wake of the reversal, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden and trustee Lauren Sheprow, both mayoral candidates, offered their commentary. Snaden said she had a change of opinion after learning of the high signature threshold to move the measure onto the June ballot via permissive referendum.

“It just made sense to me at the time, again, because of the ability for the residents to come forth and let us know,” she said. “After that happened and I heard from some residents — what the numbers were for them to bring forth the permissive referendum, that’s when I said that’s burdensome.”

The deputy mayor added, “We’ve had discussions, and we talked about bringing it tonight and considered rescinding and starting from scratch, giving it to you guys to say to us what you want to do.”

Sheprow raised the possibility of the village acquiring electronic voting machines ahead of the June elections. 

“What we didn’t realize when we were meeting, and it really wasn’t discussed holistically at the last meeting, was whether or not there are voting machines available to rent or purchase,” she said. “As long as they’re certified by the Suffolk County Board of Elections, we have that option available to us.”

Leaders of the recently resurrected Port Jefferson Civic Association made formal contact with the village government, exchanging introductions and outlining their organizational agenda. 

Civic president Ana Hozyainova thanked the board for rescinding the resolution for term extensions but asked for more public input over village decision-making.

“The civic association didn’t take a stance on whether it should be two or four years but really took objection to the fact that such an important issue which doesn’t have a clear-cut solution … was taken without any public debate,” she said, adding that more public deliberations over fortifying the eroding East Beach bluff could have occurred.

The board approved $0.50 increases in managed parking rates for weekdays and weekends, setting the rates at $1 per hour Monday through Thursday and $1.50 per hour Friday through Sunday.

Budget highlights

Village treasurer Denise Mordente delivered the fiscal year budget presentation, highlighting the budgetary constraints imposed by rising inflation and costs, also declining public revenues from the Long Island Power Authority through the Port Jefferson Power Station.

“The interest for our [bond anticipation notes], gasoline, heating oil, all of that ties in,” Mordente said. “We tried as best as we can to not put the burden again on the taxpayers.”

The budget increased by 7% from last year from $10.59 million to $11.37 million. However, the village drew $257,882 from its $1.8 million fund balance to minimize tax increases, Mordente explained. The village lost roughly $107,000 through the LIPA glide path agreement, with 15% and 20% increases in medical benefits and insurance, respectively.

The village committed to reductions in staff, opting against filling some vacant positions while assigning multiple titles to existing personnel. The administration also instituted a spending freeze for department heads, who stayed within their respective budgets from last year.

“The overall for our tax increase on an average house of $1,500 [assessed valuation] is $75 a year,” Mordente said. “We’re trying not to impact the way of life for our village.”

The Board of Trustees will meet again Tuesday, April 18, at 3 p.m., with scheduled presentations from Johnson Controls and the Six Acre Park Committee.

To watch the full general meeting, see video above.

Sketch by Kyle Horne: @kylehorneart kylehorneart.com

The Village of Port Jefferson will host community members for the Climate Resilience Plan workshop on Wednesday, April 5, at Village Hall from 6:30 to 8 p.m. During this meeting, residents will learn about the climate phenomena impacting the area, such as rising tides and intensifying flooding.

In an exclusive interview, trustee Rebecca Kassay, who also serves as the village’s sustainability commissioner, offered a preview of the meeting, detailing challenges associated with worsening flooding, accelerated erosion and the need to plan accordingly.

What are your expectations for the April 5 meeting?

The upcoming meeting is funded by the [New York State] Department of State under a grant that helps Port Jefferson Village plan to be a climate-resilience community. This information is pertinent to every community, but especially in a village like Port Jefferson, where we have such an intimate relationship with the harbor.

In our history, the village was named Drowned Meadow because it was a marshland. No one needs to be told that we’ve been experiencing increasing frequency, and the amount of flooding has increased greatly. We’re looking at this very seriously as a village on how to mitigate the flooding as climate change continues to increase in its impacts.

What is climate-resilience community planning?

A climate-resilience plan is planning to undertake both green and gray infrastructural projects as well as shifting planning and expectations in the community regarding the facts of climate change.

One of these for us is sea-level rise, the water level in the harbor being higher. Another notable one for us is the increased frequency of heavy rainfall, which causes flooding. In a climate-resilience community, we are planning to mitigate the flooding results from the effects of the climate.

Unfortunately — and I always feel like the bearer of bad news — flooding will affect almost every shoreline community on Long Island in an increasingly drastic way. As a community, we need to digest this future, start planning to protect the community assets that are most important to us and make the best planning and fiscal decisions for our future as a village.

Do you foresee coastal erosion mitigation as part of this equation for developing climate-resilience community planning?

Coastal erosion definitely falls under the umbrella of the results of climate change. We’ve been seeing this problem increase, especially in the last 10 to 20 years. Erosion is a natural process. It does happen over time. We’ve just seen a huge increase in the rate of coastal erosion.

Looking at coastal erosion and what our community plans to do regarding coastal erosion is part of climate resilience planning. Sometimes planning means building an infrastructure project, and sometimes it means a strategic retreat from an area that we, as a community, believe floods too frequently or is eroding at such a rate that the assets within that zone are very difficult and costly to protect.

One of the most difficult things about climate planning is that you have to realize that what’s been working for the last 50 to 100 years will not necessarily work in the near future.

What are some distinguishing characteristics between sustainable planning and the kind of planning that has existed up to this point?

The difference actually starts with being able to humble ourselves enough to realize that human-made solutions will not always solve the problem of climate change.

In the past 50-plus years, if there’s an issue with flooding or erosion — all these different problems that now fall into the realm of climate change — we as governments and communities have said, “Let’s build a project to fix it.” But the scale at which we are looking at climate issues is so vast that the thinking has to shift.

We have to realize that the environment is shifting around us, and our built environment is butting up against it in a way that we might have to change what we’re doing. It’s more working with nature as opposed to continually trying to work against it.

What role can residents play in this effort, and how critical is it for residents to educate themselves about the climate issues at stake?

The best way to fight fear is with action. I acknowledge completely that hearing and internalizing climate change data and projections is a very scary process.

I am currently working with [New York] Sea Grant and their local representative, Elizabeth Hornstein. We’ve recently discussed creating a workshop aimed not just at governments and nonprofits but at individual landowners, businesses and residents to empower them on what they can do with their properties to help mitigate climate change issues.

I’m hoping that within the next few months, we might be able to come up with a date for a workshop like this where residents can tune in and see if there are actions they can take to help. The Conservation Advisory Council in Port Jefferson has been working on some strategies [as a village advisory body].

We’ve designed this workshop so that it will be recorded in a high-quality fashion, just like the Board of Trustees meetings, so that residents who cannot or choose not to attend can view the meeting indefinitely on the village’s YouTube page.

Pixabay photo

Can we trust the Suffolk County Legislature?

We have had a “clean water” sales tax for years. When last I looked both Suffolk County and New York State took that “clean water” sales tax money and put it into their general budgets. Suffolk County was taken to court where it lost and was ordered to replace the improperly taken money. Suffolk then claimed this money was needed to offset the costs of COVID-19, won a referendum and never truly repaid this money. I call this legalized “stealing.”

Now we are being asked to increase and extend this legalized “stealing” [through a 1/8-cent county sales tax increase to fund water quality improvement projects, subject to a mandatory referendum]. Additionally, we are being asked to provide politically well-connected persons with positions as “a 17-member wastewater management district board of trustees” to administer this money.

We are told there will be one, countywide, sewer district with “zones of assessment.” Taxes collected within an established zone of assessment would be required to be kept segregated from taxes collected in other zones of assessment, except upon approval by the county Legislature on the recommendation of the district board of trustees.

Can we trust the Suffolk County Legislature? What do you think?

Francis G. Gibbons Sr.


Dog owners should respect a neighborhood park

Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket is a glorious place for all community members to enjoy year-round. It is particularly lovely in the spring when the trees are budding, the swans are nesting, the turtles are hanging out on the logs, the flowers are blooming, and people are emerging from their winter hibernation to walk the paths available for our enjoyment. I am one of those people, a community member who loves to bring her friendly chocolate Lab out for a walk on a regular basis. 

As a responsible dog owner, and more so, a considerate person, I take it upon myself to clean up after my large dog when he decides to do his business on park grounds. Sadly, and disgustingly, there are several individuals who have decided that they are above this inconvenient task and feel it is proper protocol to leave their piles wherever they may land so that others are subjected to not only the sight, but the aroma of their pets’ feces. Despite the fact that the park has not one, not two, but three receptacles and poop bag dispensaries, these individuals cannot be bothered to do what a respectful, unselfish person should do. Today was actually my favorite display as one person had taken it upon themself to pick up the poop, and then left the full bag in the middle of the grass adjacent to the pond. Perhaps this was meant to enhance the view? Seriously, what is wrong with you?

The park has several signs stating that if your dog is unleashed you will be banned from the park. The same standard needs to be upheld for those who choose to befoul these grounds with dog excrement. Besides being unsanitary, it is unfair to those who use the park responsibly and have the decency to leash and clean up after their pets. If you refuse to abide by common courtesy, stay home.

Stefanie Werner

East Setauket

Putting the park into parking in Port Jeff Village

The parking problem has persisted since the noted Long Island planner, Lee Koppelman, made Port Jefferson’s first village plan in 1965. Multiple updates continued to note this problem, including the 2030 Comprehensive Plan Update. 

As the village has increased parking capacity with more area and asphalt devoted to off-street parking, the less it has felt like an intimate village. Finding a spot, and the walk from your car — through other cars — to Main Street is not a pleasant start to a visit. In the planning to accommodate the car, the harbor front was converted from shipbuilding to parking, absurdly giving the car the best view of the harbor.

In 2006, sponsored by the BID, supported by the Village of Port Jefferson, we presented to the village community the concept of “Putting the Park into Parking” — as seen on the front page of this paper in 2006. The concept was to make a park on the harbor front and move the parking to a parking structure behind Main Street, replacing the asphalt wasteland with scaled-back street mews walks.

With rising tide predictions, the cars should be replaced — before they go under — with a sponge sustainable functioning education park. Parking is just one concern for quality of life in our village.

Michael Schwarting

Campani and Schwarting Architects

Port Jefferson

Uphold democracy by attending the April 3 village board meeting

When we think of dying democracies, we think of faraway lands, where democracies are overthrown by a military coup — like Myanmar in 2021 — or by rampant corruption and fraud, as in Haiti today. But there is a slower blight democracies die from: a gradual loss of trust in the electoral system. We can see that in our own backyard when local officials ignore and thus thwart the will of the majority. People still have the right to vote, but they no longer bother to do so. 

This fate threatens the Village of Port Jefferson today. We have some 6,000 registered voters in the village. Yet only about 1,200 vote in the mayoral election and even fewer for trustees. The current officers were elected with fewer than a thousand votes each in 2021 and 2022. 

Why is this? The residents have seen issue after issue decided by the Board of Trustees without considering the input of voters. The residents no longer even hope for a voice in village decisions.

Such recent decisions include building of apartment complexes in Upper and Lower Port despite strong opposition from residents; the $10 million bond that was floated to fund the “shield” solution to East Beach bluff erosion; and the parking lot built on the newly cleared forest at Mather Hospital.

But just last week, the Port Jefferson Board of Trustees added the keystone to the arch of despair that has developed over the years. The board and mayor unilaterally extended their terms of office from two years to four with no public debate whatsoever. Whether that extension would be bad or good for the village is not the issue. The issue is that, once again, the village residents’ rightful expectation that their will would be considered in their village government’s decisions was quashed. 

Village residents voted to incorporate as a village because we wanted to have self-governance, to make our own decisions about things that affect us the most. But this is now not the case.

As representatives of the Civic Association of Port Jefferson, we strongly urge the Board of Trustees, in their April 3 meeting, to rescind the undemocratic resolution to extend their terms they made at their last meeting.

We also urge the residents of Port Jefferson to show up at 6 p.m. at the April 3 board meeting at the Village Hall to express their disapproval. Don’t let democracy in our village die the death of apathy.

Ana Hozyainova, President

Holly Fils-Aime, Vice President

Port Jefferson Civic Association


We welcome your letters, especially those responding to our local coverage, replying to other letter writers’ comments and speaking mainly to local themes. Letters should be no longer than 400 words and may be edited for length, libel, style, good taste and uncivil language. They will also be published on our website. We do not publish anonymous letters. Please include an address and phone number for confirmation.

Email letters to: [email protected]

or mail them to TBR News Media, P.O. Box 707, Setauket, NY 11733

Photo by Raymond Janis

Frequent elections are a common feature of healthy, vibrant democracies. Here in the Village of Port Jefferson, the community should recognize the value elections bring.

Biennial elections, or those held every two years, have been in place since the village’s incorporation. However, during a business meeting held Monday, March 20, the Port Jeff Board of Trustees voted unanimously to alter the length of terms for village mayor, trustees and judges from two to four years.

At TBR News Media, we view one of our roles as watchdog of local government for the people. The free press must shine light upon power, especially power wielded hastily and imprudently. We, therefore, regard Monday’s decision as irresponsible and advise the voting public to reverse course.

Biennial elections strengthen the ties between elected officials and their constituents. Up for election every two years, the representative continuously returns to the people, selling his or her vision to the public, receiving ideas in exchange. This symbiotic process keeps governmental decisions reflective of the public will.

During debates over ratification of the U.S. Constitution, Americans argued most vehemently over the structure of Congress. At the height of those debates, James Madison, in Federalist No. 52, advanced the most coherent and convincing rationale for maintaining two-year terms in the House of Representatives.

“As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people,” Madison wrote, “so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people.”

The “intimate sympathy” between congressmen and their districts — kindled through biennial elections — distinguishes the lower chamber as the “People’s House.” Over more than two centuries after ratification, we still elect congressional representatives every two years.

But an even greater incentive remains for preserving the current system in Port Jeff. This year’s election season is already underway, with three of the five members of the current board seeking election in less than 90 days.

Whether or not the board appreciates this fact, Monday’s vote comes at a delicate historical moment. Within the broader national context, many are losing faith in American democracy, as both major political parties and an often-unrestrained national press and social media work in tandem to erode public trust in our democratic norms.

Election denial is becoming a mainstay of our national political discourse. Allegations of voter fraud, voter suppression and election interference are commonplace today. Monday’s vote signals a lack of awareness of these broader currents, setting a dangerous precedent by localizing our national democratic defects.

Finally, the term extensions flatly disregard ongoing concerns among some villagers who fear the decisions made by this board might be made in an untransparent and undemocratic manner. By extending their terms and expanding the scope of their powers, board members risk further alienating residents from the decision-making process.

The village government has some serious work ahead. Between declining public revenue, a rising budget and a sometimes disillusioned electorate, policymaking now more than ever requires close coordination between village officials and their community. Monday’s outcome does the opposite, creating more distance and potentially shielding representatives from public scrutiny.

Citizens have recourse. Under the New York Village Law, the voters can overturn this resolution through a permissive referendum. We encourage residents to do their part to help collect the necessary signatures, then to defeat this ill-conceived measure at the ballot box in June.

But more must be done to reinvigorate democracy in Port Jeff. Too few attend village board meetings or write us letters detailing their local concerns. A lack of public participation communicates a lack of interest to the board. Citizens must actively engage and work with their local government.

May this board and electorate rediscover the power of intimate sympathy. May shared love of democracy bind citizens to their local representatives once again. As June nears, let the chimes of liberty ring out loudly in Port Jefferson village.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow, above, is a declared candidate for Port Jefferson Village mayor. Photo courtesy Sheprow

The candidate pool for this year’s mayoral election in the Village of Port Jefferson just doubled in size, with trustee Lauren Sheprow now entering the race.

Seven-term incumbent Mayor Margot Garant announced her retirement from the village government in February and has since secured the Democratic Party’s nomination for Town of Brookhaven supervisor. To fill the open seat, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden was first to announce her candidacy. Sheprow is now the second.

In an exclusive interview, Sheprow confirmed her candidacy, stating that she has canvassed village residents who have expressed general interest in a new direction for village government.

“They would like to see a turn of the page for their village,” Sheprow said. “As I contemplated that, and as I had a perspective on how the government runs over the past eight or nine months as a trustee, I started recognizing opportunities for a new vision.”

If elected, she would be the second member of her family to occupy the office, her father Hal having served six terms as mayor from 1977 to 1991.

Sheprow joined the Port Jefferson Board of Trustees in July, unseating four-term incumbent trustee Bruce Miller. Before entering the board, she had spent 16 years as the chief media relations officer at Stony Brook University and before that four years as the public relations director at Mather Hospital.

Sheprow suggested her experiences within the SBU and Mather administrations directly apply to that of the village. “They have very similar departments as the village has, only on a larger scale,” the trustee said. “I think I can bring a lot of that experience to our village to help it run more efficiently and effectively.”

Since entering the board, Sheprow has taken on several assignments, serving as the village’s communications commissioner and as trustee liaison for both recreation and the food and beverage lessee at Port Jefferson Country Club. 

For Sheprow, expanding use of the country club’s restaurant and catering facility would remain a priority. She said village organizations such as the Parks & Recreation Advisory Council and the Social/Hospitality Task Force are working to “help guide the lessee to create a more engaging membership experience,” adding, “I’ve seen some developments in that area, and as the season comes upon us, we’ll see the outcomes of that work.”

Sheprow and Snaden are currently the only two declared candidates for mayor. Incumbent trustee Stan Loucks and former village clerk Bob Juliano are both running for trustee.

Election Day will take place Tuesday, June 20.