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Port Jefferson Village Hall

Port Jefferson’s temporary village hall was located in leased facilities on the west side of Main Street. Photo from author's collection

After Port Jefferson incorporated in 1963, the village Board of Trustees established a temporary village hall in leased facilities on the west side of Main Street.

Since the easily forgotten storefront location was hardly impressive and the small space soon proved inadequate, a plan for a permanent village hall was advanced in 1964 by Port Jefferson’s first mayor, Robert L. Robertson.

He proposed the construction of an elegant and capacious million-dollar village center that would house both government offices and recreational facilities, including a community swimming pool.

The multipurpose complex would be built on West Broadway, facing Port Jefferson Harbor, on land acquired by the village and once occupied by Loper Brothers Lumber Yard.

While The Port Jefferson Record applauded Robertson’s “visionary” proposal, the Board of Trustees decided not to proceed with the project, pending the completion of a village master plan by consultants Raymond & May.

The master plan, released in July 1965 during the administration of Port Jefferson’s second mayor, Clifton H. Lee, provided a guide for the future development of the village and recommended that the West Broadway tract be used exclusively for Port Jefferson’s seat of government.

Village of Port Jefferson founding mayors Clifton H. Lee, left, and Robert L. Robertson, right, both worked to establish a village hall. Photo from the Lee Family collection

Milton S. Osborne, who had directed the Penn State School of Architecture, also conferred on the project, and supported using the West Broadway site strictly for village hall while building public parks and recreation areas at other locations throughout Port Jefferson.

With a clear goal in mind, the Board of Trustees formed the Architectural Selection Committee which reviewed sketches and interviewed architects before recommending Anthony J. Lorio (1928-2013) as their choice to design village hall.

Lorio proposed the construction of a 7,000-square-foot, two-story, Georgian-style brick building, on a raised podium. Preliminary renderings were displayed throughout Port Jefferson, and residents were invited to offer their opinions.

While most reviews were positive, there were some who called for softening the village hall’s facade. After making minor modifications in his design, and with the trustees’ support, Lorio began preparing working plans for the building.

In April 1966, construction of village hall went out to bid, but all 19 proposals were rejected as too expensive. The Board of Trustees, which had wanted to keep total costs under $200,000, went out to bid a second time in winter 1967 but was frustrated again with the high numbers.

Today’s Port Jefferson village hall, located at 121 W. Broadway. File photo

After considerable discussion, the trustees agreed that construction costs were likely to increase because of the Vietnam War’s inflationary impact and it was best to accept a $264,000 bid before prices rose even more.

Port Jefferson broke ground for village hall in April 1967, but nationwide strikes in various industries so delayed progress locally that the building was not ready for business until May 1968.

Over the years, village hall has become more than just a municipal building and is now a seaside landmark, evoking that sense of place that makes Port Jefferson so special.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson village historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of the village.

Laura Gumbus was driving along West Broadway in Port Jefferson on Friday afternoon, August 11 when 12 Canadian geese decided to cross the street to the lush grass in front of Village Hall. The event caused a traffic delay as everyone patiently waited for them to cross and Gumbos pulled out her phone to record the parade.
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Pixabay photo

Democracies don’t exist for their statutes or procedures or rules. They are given life by, and exist to serve, the people.

Representative government can only function if citizens direct their elected officials toward representative policy ends. This process worked to perfection Monday night, April 3, when the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees voted 5-0 to rescind a resolution to extend terms of service for village officials — reversing a unanimous decision rendered just two weeks earlier.

We regard this outcome as a victory for the people and the board, a reflection of the dynamic interplay between public officials and their constituents. We congratulate Port Jeff citizens and representatives alike for this democratic response.

Monday meant more than a simple reversal of posture. Residents turned out in force, filling the boardroom and demonstrating their interest and engagement in the local decision-making process.

Leaders of the newly reformed Port Jefferson Civic Association made formal contact with their village officials, introducing themselves and expressing their community aims. We view this as a decisive first step toward active collaboration between the local governing body and its civic.

But the board itself deserves immense credit for its leadership and accountability over a delicate policy matter. We are all fallible creatures, prone to occasional lapses in judgment and error.

It takes a greater sense of self-knowledge and courage to publicly admit fault and correct a mistake. We thank the board for upholding the foundational principle that the power of government is derived from the consent of the governed.    

The work in this village is still unfinished. It isn’t enough to show up once amid the height of the storm. Another tempest is always brewing, and today’s calmer seas will be tomorrow’s surging tides.

Democracy requires persistent effort and engagement from residents. It demands citizens be present at all village board meetings, for they are the drivers of this system.

Still, the board’s action Monday validated the democratic principle. It illustrates that the light of liberty and conscience can and will prevail in this village. For this moment, may we all rejoice at the simple splendor of local democracy done right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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File photo by Heidi Sutton

By Jim Hastings

The main order of business at the Village of Port Jefferson board meeting March 21 was the proposed budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year which begins June 1. The board is looking to approve the piercing of the 2% village property tax cap and raise it to 4.5%. Mayor Margot Garant said the piercing would be needed to recoup much of the loss brought on by the LIPA settlement, which equates to $122,383 a year.

The board discussed how 2.7% of the budget would go to union contracts. The removal of brush in the village and care of the sidewalks would total $118,000 and $150,000 respectively. The cost of snow removal, along with the purchase of sand and salt, was factored in. Sand and salt saw an increase of $10,000 over last year’s prices due to inflation. The village purchased two Bobcats to remove snow; the equipment was leased in the past. One of the Bobcats was paid for by the Business Improvement District, the other by the village.  

Garant discussed the Port Jefferson Country Club. Due to the erosion situation with the tennis courts at the edge of the cliffside, the club’s tennis pro has been forced to teach elsewhere throughout the village. $50,000 is budgeted for that. More on the country club will be discussed at the next meeting. 

Trustee Bruce Miller brought up the current greenkeeping situation. He posited the need for a professional gardener to care of the village’s flowerbeds and green spaces. Garant praised village gardener Caran Markson and the parks department for doing a great job, and for the continued handling during Markson’s medical leave due to injury on the job. No decision was made about a replacement at the meeting. 

Garant congratulated the board for its work on the budget, noting that the village is AA rated, which means it has a “very strong capacity to meet its financial commitments,” as defined by S&P Global Ratings.

The proposed budget will be posted five days before the next public hearing, which is to be held April 4.

Other points of business

• Parking in front of the post office: A vote was taken, and it was decided that two of the four spots in front would change from 10 minutes only to two hours.

Parking in the village: Paid parking begins on April 1 and continues until the day after the Dickens Festival in early December. Pricing will remain the same at 50 cents per hour Monday through Thursday and $1 per hour on the weekend. 

Long Island Explorium: Noting that some of the space is underutilized, Garant floated the idea of using some areas, like the upper balcony, for live music.

Recharge basin between Old Homestead and Oakwood roads: There has been a delay in the crushing of stone for the basin due primarily to a shortage in the workforce — most notably truck drivers.

Rocketship Park bathrooms: The facilities are still under construction but on track to open on April 1. 

Recreational activities: The Recreation Department ordered 16 more kayaks for Centennial Park beach. There is a proposal to bring pickleball to Texaco Avenue Park which would see the creation of two pickleball courts on the existing basketball court area. Summer camp is open to village residents until May 1 and will then be opened to nonresidents after that at a higher price. Summer camp is open to Village residents until May 1 and will then be opened to non-residents after that at a higher price.