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Rebecca Kassay

(Left to right) Trustee Rebecca Kassay, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden, Mayor Margot Garant, Trustee Stan Loucks and Trustee-elect Lauren Sheprow. Right photo courtesy Sheprow, all others from the Port Jefferson Village website

The Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees will undergo a major shakeup next week as Bruce Miller leaves the board.

Miller, who has served since 2014, was unseated in last week’s village election after an unsuccessful bid for a fifth term. His seat will be filled by Lauren Sheprow. 

Bruce Miller, above, leaves office next week after eight years on the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees.
Photo from village website

As Miller transitions out of village government, his colleagues weighed in on his legacy of service to the village. In a series of emailed statements, Mayor Margot Garant and trustees took the opportunity to describe their many takeaways from Miller’s time in office. 

The mayor, under whose administration Miller served during the entirety of his tenure as a trustee, highlighted several initiatives Miller had championed through the village government.

“Bruce’s vision for a better Port Jefferson brought us to the table on many big issues, including the repowering of our power plant, getting a better ride on the Long Island Rail Road, and reducing energy costs for those who live both in Port Jefferson and beyond,” Garant said. “He should be commended on every level for his selfless contribution, and I wish him all the best in his retirement years ahead, spending many more days visiting his daughter and doing the things he loves.”

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden praised Miller for the innovative ideas and problem-solving skills that he brought to the village board. According to her, his creative approach is best illustrated by his taste in architecture.

“My first memory of Bruce was with his work on the Architectural Review Committee and his ideas on Victorian-style exterior design,” she said. “He always brought an interesting perspective to issues and it’s been a pleasure working with him. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Trustee Stan Loucks, who has also served alongside Miller for eight years, emphasized that Miller’s service to the community long predates his time as trustee.

“It should be obvious to everyone that Bruce Miller has been, and still is, dedicated to servicing the village of Port Jefferson,” Loucks said. “His many years on the school board and the eight years he served as a trustee are proof of that.” He added, “There is a saying, ‘All good things come to an end.’ I feel that Bruce was one of those good things. I wish him the best going forward — good health and happiness.”

Trustee Rebecca Kassay, who will remain on the board for another term, also acknowledged Miller’s contributions to the school district. She added that she hopes to continue to tap into Miller’s wealth of experience moving forward.

“Trustee Miller has garnered invaluable institutional knowledge from his years of service, not only on the Board of Trustees, but also from his years on the board of education,” she said. “I appreciate his perspectives and look forward to continuing a dialogue with him to help inform future village decisions.”

Sheprow commented on the lessons she takes away from her predecessor’s decades of public service in and around the village. 

“Bruce Miller has been contributing time and talent to the Village of Port Jefferson — and before that to the Port Jefferson School District — for close to two decades,” the trustee-elect said, adding, “He deserves a great deal of respect for all he has contributed and I applaud him for his dedication. He is a role model for public service to be emulated in the Village of Port Jefferson and I hope others will follow in his footsteps and get involved as he has for the betterment of this community.”

Sheprow will be seated officially after a formal swearing-in ceremony held on Monday, July 4, at Village Hall. This will conclude Miller’s eight-year tenure on the village board. 

To read about Miller’s biggest takeaway from his time in office, see the TBR News Media June 30 story, “A legacy of service: Bruce Miller reflects upon his tenure as Port Jeff Village trustee.”

After eight years of service on the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees, Bruce Miller will leave office. File photo

After eight years of service on the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees, Bruce Miller will leave office after this week.

Miller, who unsuccessfully sought a fifth term as trustee in this year’s election, will leave office on July 4. He will be succeeded by Lauren Sheprow. 

In an exclusive interview with Miller, the outgoing trustee reflected upon his time in village government, his greatest challenges and his hopes for the future.

Miller congratulated the winners of the race, saying, “I would like to congratulate the two people that did win, Rebecca [Kassay] and Lauren. I hope they will do good things for the village.” He added, “Obviously, I’m disappointed that I didn’t place in the necessary top two, so I’ll be looking for other things to do. Any assistance that I can provide to the new trustees or the mayor or anyone else associated with the village government, I would be glad to provide.”

Writing his own story

Miller highlighted several projects that he believes represent the core of his contribution to the village. He said the projects he focused on were those that required long-term vision, carried out over many years.

“Certain things take a long time to accomplish,” he said. “With the green energy aggregated solar, we had to get laws passed in order to have it permitted on Long Island as LIPA resisted.” Miller added that the village could sign up for this program right now, which would reduce utility costs for village ratepayers. 

‘I worked in areas kind of on my own. I made my own story.’

— Bruce Miller

The Long Island Rail Road was another trademark issue for Miller. He believes that after years of persistence, funds are finally being made available to improve the rider experience and expedite services. “The money is there,” the retiring trustee said. “There’s $10 billion coming to the MTA and we need to work with our legislatures to ensure that we get a piece of that.” He added, “In the Army we used to have the expression, KISS: Keep it simple, stupid. To the Long Island Rail Road, I would say just streamline this thing and do what you have to do to get us a better ride.”

Miller will be leaving office with “some ideas on the drawing board.” He said that if he had been reelected, he would have explored the possibility of annexing the Lawrence Aviation property and the houses between the property and Sheep Pasture Road.

“There’s 40 acres of open space there where we could declare parkland,” he said. “That would resolve a lot of issues that we have.”

Another idea Miller had was to consider the possibility of constructing underground parking in the Dutch model. 

Working as a trustee, Miller said he encountered numerous difficulties along the way. A contrarian and independent voice, Miller said he was often in the minority on many of the major issues.

“I was a minority trustee,” he said. “It’s a very low-leverage situation. I tried to be supportive of the mayor and the priorities of the majority, but in some cases I could not do that and resisted a lot of that.” He continued, “I worked in areas kind of on my own. I made my own story.”

Tradition vs. transformation

Miller said that while much of the village’s character remains unchanged since his first term, the village has undergone some profound changes, most noticeably in Upper Port.

“If you look at the four blocks south of Sheep Pasture and North Country Road, there’s change going on there and there will be a lot more,” Miller said, adding, “The area was pretty blighted and the people who owned the property there allowed it to deteriorate in order to extract consideration for larger zoning, which they got.”

Miller also acknowledged that much of the development in Upper Port is made possible through Industrial Development Agency subsidies, “which means the apartments pay very little taxes, so there’s a great incentive for building and not much desire on the part of the developers to give back,” he said.

One area Miller had hoped developers could compromise on was architecture, which he believes should reflect the New England and maritime traditions of the community and create a sense of continuity between uptown and downtown. 

“I had advocated that we use a Victorian, maritime kind of architectural structure on these buildings to tie them in with the downtown, so that we are one village,” he said, adding, “Making a village of quality is of interest to the residents because it improves their property values and their sense of being.”

Miller said he understands the sense of urgency to develop those areas. However, he still believes the developments should be guided by greater oversight from the village. “We’re not looking toward the future in terms of developing an ambiance that is on a par with Cold Spring Harbor or Southampton,” he said.

Leaving office

Miller’s message to the incoming board is to keep his priorities in mind as they are important. Aside from the duties that preoccupy board members from day to day, he said considerable forethought and long-term planning are also necessary.

“There’s a lot that goes on in the village that needs to get done, but we need to get beyond that and make substantial improvements in what we’re focusing on,” he said. “I would hope that they would pick up some of these issues that I had started with.”

He also asked that the trustees and the Planning Board apply greater pressure to real estate developers, who “are getting an extraordinary deal.” 

Miller said he favors the construction of condominiums over one-bedroom apartments, which he says can also help offset declining student enrollment in the school district.

When asked if he had any regrets about his time in village government, he replied, “No, I don’t have any regrets. I really see this as a calling and it improves me. I like to contribute. I enjoy putting my energy and creativity into enterprises benefiting the community, and I will continue to do so.” He added, “I just see the value in contributing to and helping my fellow citizens and trying to express a better vision for their future.”

Rebecca Kassay, left, and Lauren Sheprow, right, were both elected to two-year terms as village trustees. Left photo from the village website, right courtesy Sheprow

Hundreds of Port Jefferson village residents hit the polls throughout Tuesday, reelecting Rebecca Kassay and promoting upstart Lauren Sheprow to two-year terms as village trustees. 

In this strongly contested election, five candidates competed for two available seats on the village board of trustees. Kassay, who has already served on the board for two years, received a vote of confidence from residents and retains her seat. Sheprow, on the other hand, unseated eight-year incumbent Bruce Miller. Gerard Gang and Ana Hozyainova were also in the running, with both candidates receiving a respectable show of support from the voting public. 

‘I commend my fellow candidates for races well run and hope that their passion and desire to strengthen and enrich our community continues beyond the election.’ — Trustee Rebecca Kassay

Kassay praised the other candidates in the race whose platforms helped raise awareness around important topics for the incoming board to consider.

“I commend my fellow candidates for races well run and hope that their passion and desire to strengthen and enrich our community continues beyond the election,” she said in an email. “I hope that I can serve as a resource to help them turn their ideas into action for the betterment of our village.”

Interpreting the election results, Kassay suggests they indicate that the community favors more robust exchanges between trustees and residents along with long-term strategic decision-making.

“These election results represent the voice of residents who are interested in long-term considerations in village decisions, and the voice of those who want more conversation not only among board members but also between the village government and its constituency,” Kassay said. She added, “I look forward to building upon efforts started in my first term — the Six Acre Park project, infrastructural grants and various code updates — and working with community members on a number of quality-of-life and safety efforts to help our residents make the most of this incredible village they call home.”

‘I have a healthy respect for this process and for the other candidates who put themselves out there to ask for a chance to serve their community.’

— Trustee-elect Lauren Sheprow

Sheprow, whose father Hal previously served as mayor, will continue the family tradition of public service in the coming term. She offered her perspective on the race, acknowledging the efforts of the other candidates and thanking the public for its engagement throughout the process.

“I am humbled by the trust the residents have put in me to represent them and was struck by how competitive this race was and how engaged the people in the village are about their elected leadership,” she said in an email. “I have a healthy respect for this process and for the other candidates who put themselves out there to ask for a chance to serve their community. I wish them the best and hope they remain involved in the areas they are most passionate about.”

A first-time elected officeholder, Sheprow recognizes there is still much to learn. The trustee-elect said she hopes to familiarize herself with the village code and continue to meet her new constituents.

“There are a lot of people I didn’t get to speak with and will proactively continue to pursue these face-to-face interactions that will help guide my focus and activity as a collaborative member of this board,” she said, adding, “I plan to become well versed in village law and use the code of the Village of Port Jefferson to guide my thinking and in the decision-making process where appropriate.”

Kassay and Sheprow will officially take office on July 4 after a formal swearing-in ceremony held at Village Hall.

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Maker Faire Long Island returned to Port Jefferson village on Saturday, June 11, at the Village Center.

Maker Faire LI is an annual festival held by the Long Island Explorium, a science and engineering museum based in Port Jeff. Its purpose is to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education by way of innovations and crafts of people throughout the region and country. 

Angeline Judex, executive director of the Explorium, discussed the surprising success of the event after its two-year pause. “We’re really happy with this event,” she said. “It has turned out really well — much better than we actually expected.”

Proceeds from the event will support the Explorium’s various educational programs. The goal of these programs is to enliven STEM through activities that are engaging and fun. Judex said the Explorium hopes to inspire young people and nourish a lifelong pursuit of STEM. 

“It’s really important for children to be inspired and excited about STEM at an early age,” Judex said, adding, “We focus on enriching and inspiring children from K-6 so that they get excited about STEM because this is the future.” She added, “We want to support the next generation of leaders and scientists who are going to be inspired to solve some of the challenges in the environments we live in.”

Hundreds of makers gathered at Harborfront Park to showcase their own unique contributions to the field. Sejal Mehra, one of the presenters at the festival, displayed what she has coined “engineering art.” Her works integrate aspects of collage, engineering and sustainability studies under a common discipline.

“I create ‘engineering art,’ which is made from recycling old computer and electronic parts or plastic that would have otherwise ended up in the trash to show the beauty of STEM,” she said. “I’m on a mission to change the face of STEM through art.”

Makers such as Mehra offer the necessary guidance for young people to pursue STEM. Through their example of creativity and ingenuity, young people are challenged to change the world themselves.  

“I think it’s really important to have programs like this one to help inspire young minds into a lifelong pursuit of STEM because you never know when or how something is going to spark their love for STEM,” Mehra said. “It is also great for young minds to be inspired by young adults like myself because we were just in their shoes and can help motivate them to pursue STEM. Without programs like this, the amount of exposure to the field and its vast possibilities and intersections would not be possible.”

Mehra’s artwork is currently for sale and can be purchased through her website or by contacting her via email or Instagram.

Joining Judex was a group of public officials who offered their support for the museum in its mission to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers. New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), a geologist by profession, spoke of the importance of Maker Faire in encouraging young minds to tackle the impending challenges of environmental degradation.

“The purpose of bringing us all together is to enhance this community, to imagine possibilities for all of the people who live here and visit here, and to use our imagination just a little bit,” he said. “One of the things that’s very important is the narrative and theme that are interwoven around protecting the environment. We’re situated here in beautiful Port Jefferson on the edge of the harbor, and it is a beautiful place to remember the importance of sustainability.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was also present for the event. She thanked the Explorium for providing these services and enriching the community.

“I am pleased to be here to support Maker Faire Long Island once again, to support the Explorium, and encourage children and our residents to explore, to innovate, to use their imagination and encourage ingenuity,” she said. “Thank you for all you do to encourage that in children right here in our own backyard.”

Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) recognized Judex for the work she put into making this annual tradition successful once again and for championing STEM and motivating young people.

“I want to thank you not only for the work you did to bring this event together, but for the work you do all year long to create a fun place for kids to do science, to teach kids, to make it accessible to everybody, to bring science to places where maybe it isn’t, and to find new places to suddenly discover science,” the councilmember said.

Kathianne Snaden, Village of Port Jefferson deputy mayor, thanked the many entities that helped make this event possible once again.

“To all of the volunteers, to all of the makers, to the attendees, to our code department, our parks department and our highway department, without all of you coming together to make an event like this happen, we just couldn’t do it,” she said. “To the Explorium for providing cutting-edge technology, programming and hands-on learning for our children, it is just unmatched in this area.”

Village trustee Rebecca Kassay and her husband volunteered as traffic guards during the event. She called it “a pleasure directing parking.”

“As my husband and I stand and direct parking, we look at the children leaving this event and I asked them, ‘What have you made today?’” the trustee said. “Their faces light up and they show me something they’ve made, whether it’s a magnet, whether it’s a whirligig, whether it’s lip balm.” She continued, “It is so important to empower these young people with the gift of demystifying what is in the world around them.”

Englebright concluded the remarks with an anecdote. When the assemblyman was just 14 years old, his science teacher at the time recommended he attend a junior curator program at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. His decision to heed that advice would reshape the course of his life.

“I became a junior curator and it changed my life,” he said. “The Explorium, this children’s museum, I believe is going to change an awful lot of young people’s lives. Now here I am — with white hair — some years later, and I can tell you of the importance of your programs and the worthiness of everything that you do.”

Port Jeff village trustee candidates during the "Meet the Candidates" forum hosted by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce on June 8. (Left to right) Lauren Sheprow, Bruce Miller, Ana Hozyainova, Rebecca Kassay and Gerard Gang. Photo by Raymond Janis

Incumbent trustees Bruce Miller and Rebecca Kassay, who are both up for reelection, will be challenged by Gerard Gang, Ana Hozyainova and Lauren Sheprow in the village election on Tuesday, June 21. 

During a “Meet the Candidates” event held Wednesday, June 8, the five declared candidates presented their visions before an audience of dozens of residents in the Wayfarer Room of the Village Center.

Candidates each delivered two-minute opening remarks, answered questions on various subjects regarding the major issues currently facing the village, and finally made concluding remarks.

The event was sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber, asked the questions. Seating arrangements and response orders were both determined at random by pulling the candidates’ names out of a bag.

Questions were selected by a panel of moderators that comprised of Suzanne Velazquez, former chamber president; Stu Vincent, director of public relations at Mather Hospital; and Thomas Donlon, director of Port Jefferson Free Library.

Chamber president Mary Joy Pipe was the official timer for the event, signaling to the candidates their remaining allotted time with colored cards. After opening remarks, the candidates debated a range of topics such as term limits, bluff stabilization, Upper Port revitalization, potential redistricting schemes for the school district, among several other subjects. 

The entire candidate forum clocked in at nearly two-and-a-half hours. For more information, click here.

Members of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce (PJCC) joined The Whiskey Barrel for a one year anniversary ribbon cutting celebration on May 26. 

Located at 138 Main Street in Port Jefferson Village, the restaurant/whiskey bar offers whiskey, wine, tap beer and other spirits, and also feature a full menu. Now also open for brunch,  the menu includes Bourbon Peach Cobbler French Toast, Croque Monsieur and Dirty Potatoes. Additionally they won 1st place in last year’s chowder contest during the 2021 Port Jefferson Village Harvest Festival. 

The Whiskey Barrel is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. with brunch on weekends starting at 9:30 a.m. Takeout and delivery is also available. For more information, call 631-743-9418 or visit www.thewhiskeybarrelpj.com.

File photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

The Village of Port Jeff Board of Trustees held its monthly public meeting on Monday, June 6, addressing a number of issues.

Public safety

Chief of Code Enforcement Fred Leute reported that while the village has not noticed a recent spike in automobile break-ins, this is a crime trend occurring in other nearby areas. He reminded villagers of the importance of locking their cars and not leaving key fobs inside the car when they are away.

“If you lock your car, there’s no incidents of anyone breaking into the cars,” he said. “It’s not worth it to them … If you lock your stuff, lock your windows and lock your cars, you’ll be safe.”

Suffolk County police will conduct training programs for village constables, “and that includes an active shooter certification for all of our employees,” Leute said.

He also highlighted his office’s ongoing efforts to monitor speeding through radar enforcement and officers posted near stop signs. Through these activities, he noticed a startling phenomenon.

“The interesting thing that came from that is that once they did that for the past week and a half, they’re finding that it’s mostly village residents that are speeding,” he said. 

Leute stressed the importance of calling his office rather than reporting incidents on social media. “If you’re of good heart and you want to help this village, call us,” he said. “Don’t go on Facebook, call my guys. We will listen, we will figure out what the problem is and we will fix it.” He added, “Going on Facebook and demeaning either the village or the constables or the highway department … whoever, it’s not productive.”

Trustee reports

Trustee Rebecca Kassay announced she had a productive meeting last weekend with the Beach Street Community Garden, a group of gardeners and community volunteers. She said that she also hopes to have a meeting with Elizabeth Hornstein, of the Long Island Sound Study, to explore ways in which the village can secure possible funding for certain projects.

Kassay said Hornstein specializes in assisting “villages like ours, municipalities who have goals concerning flooding and other environmental issues, to connect us with grant money that is available on the state and federal levels.”

Trustee Stan Loucks said there are still available job openings within the recreations department. 

“We’re looking for junior counselors, senior counselors, lifeguards — these positions are still open, so you can apply through the Village Center,” he said. 

Loucks also reported positive news on the country club, whose membership this season has exceeded 600 members. “This certainly indicates that we have an exceptional facility,” the trustee said. “However, golf courses can only handle so many golfers. We may be having discussions in the very near future about putting a cap on our membership.”

Loucks concluded his report by reminding residents that the restaurants at the country club are open to the public, not requiring a membership to eat at them. “The eating facilities up at the country club, they’re not private,” he said. “They’re public places — The Turn as well as The Waterview. These are public restaurants and many people are not aware that they can go up there and go to these places.”

Trustee Bruce Miller provided an update on his recent deliberations with the executive staff of planning and training at Long Island Rail Road. Miller said there was “a lot of movement, but I don’t know if you would call it in a positive direction.”

During the conference, the LIRR presented several alternatives to the village. The parties discussed the idea of having two tracks, that is, a second track between Port Jefferson and Huntington stations. LIRR also proposed fixing the bridges. When the idea was pitched for electrification of the line, LIRR responded with the need to purchase more land to accommodate the two tracks. 

Miller questioned if LIRR’s numerous alternatives may overcomplicate the planning of this project, dooming it to failure from the start.

“I’m just thinking to myself, have they put so many bells and whistles onto this project that they then can say, ‘Well, we’d like to do all of this but we just can’t. It’s just not economically feasible,’” Miller said. “Part of my issue is the fact that we have a lot of residents who live in Port Jefferson … but commute to the Ronkonkoma line. That to me is very ‘ungreen.’”

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden announced a number of upcoming events in the village, including the upcoming Maker Faire on Saturday, June 11, at the Village Center.

“I’ve been working with the museum about coordinating with our code department for security, for road closures, for parking,” she said. “That’s shaping up to be a great event, as it always is. We’re glad to have it back after the COVID years and get back to the fun with the kids.”

Mayor report

Mayor Margot Garant reported that a fireworks display will be held on Sunday, July 3, at East Beach with a rain date of July 8. 

The mayor also congratulated the high school baseball team and girls lacrosse team on their successful seasons. 

To watch the full meeting, click here.

File photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

By Raymond Janis

Members of the Six Acre Park Committee met at Village Hall May 17 to present their vision to the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees.

Rebecca Kassay, trustee liaison to the committee, presented plans for the park located on Highlands Boulevard. 

“The proposal summary is to create a tranquil, arboretum-like setting with a walking path and replace most or all of the existing vegetation with a variety of native tree shrubs and native plantings,” she said. “The park would aim to provide aesthetic and ecological value throughout the year.”

The committee has met once or twice a month since October last year to arrive at its recommendations. The stated goals of the park are to exercise the body and mind, celebrate the beauty of nature and promote multigenerational opportunities for education. 

There is also potential for active use of space along the far west perimeter of the property, which the committee intends to explore in the second phase, according to Kassay.

The committee has used several well-known parks for inspiration: The High Line in New York City, Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton, Avalon Nature Preserve in Stony Brook, Frank Melville Park in Setauket and Central Park in Manhattan. 

“My personal opinion is that I want to see this move forward. I think it’s a place that we need.”

— Mayor Margot Garant

After the presentation, members of the committee had an opportunity to address the board in turn.

“As we see caterpillars transform into butterflies, so will this 6-acre parkland become a tranquil path of arboretum,” Gerard Gang said. “It will be an asset to the development of Upper Port. Its walking paths will be enjoyed by the residents as well as the employees around the park, exercising both the body and the mind.”

Kathleen Riley shared her enthusiasm for the project, saying the park will be an asset to the village, offering residents a place for quiet contemplation and reflection.

“This arboretum will be a great addition to the village,” she said. “With all of the different amenities that the village has and all of the other activities that this arboretum might have, it will be a great addition.” She added, “It will be passive and active — not an athletic park like Heritage Park [in Mount Sinai], but more on the contemplative end like Avalon.”

“It was really a pleasure to be a part of the committee,” Kelly DeVine said. “I think what’s going to emerge out of this process is going to be an attribute for the whole village.” 

DeVine added that the committee’s emphasis on native plants will help to showcase the richness and diversity of native species: “We all love Long Island, we all love how unique it is. We now can have a place where we can really showcase how beautiful Long Island is.” 

At the end of the presentation, Mayor Margot Garant complimented the committee for the thoroughness of its investigation 

“I think you guys did a very thorough job,” she said. “My personal opinion is that I want to see this move forward. I think it’s a place that we need. I know Harborfront Park is an asset, but it’s very active. This I think is a completely different park.” The mayor added, “I’m looking forward to seeing this come to fruition.”