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The Village of Port Jefferson

(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.

Port Jeff village trustee candidate on finding creative responses to local issues

Lauren Sheprow is running for Port Jefferson village trustee. Photo courtesy Sheprow

Lauren Sheprow, former media relations officer at Stony Brook University and daughter of the former village mayor Hal Sheprow, is running for trustee. During an exclusive interview last week, Sheprow addressed her family’s background in village politics, her experience in media relations, Upper Port revitalization, the East Beach bluff and more.

What is your background and why would you like to be involved in village government?

I’ve been working my entire life in public relations, communications and media relations — that’s about a 40-year career. I most recently was working at Stony Brook University as the Chief Media Relations Officer and prior to that I was at Mather Hospital and the public relations director for that hospital. I enjoyed those jobs immensely.

I retired from the University officially on December 31 and didn’t initially consider or think about running for trustee. My father was the mayor of Port Jefferson during a timeframe of 1979 until 1994. He was a trustee before that and a planning board chairman prior to that in the village of Port Jefferson. He also was an EMS and ambulance person for the Port Jeff ambulance. As I was growing up in that household with my siblings — I have a sister and five brothers — we all watched that, we saw him do that and it had a big impression on me. It was ingrained in me that it was an important thing to give back to the community. 

It had been in the back of my mind for a while that I did want to do something, whether it be as trustee or to do something in a different realm. I did not have time to do that while I was working at Stony Brook because that was a 24/7 job and I would never have had the time it takes to run for trustee, let alone serve. 

When I learned about and was reminded that these two seats are up for reelection, I started really thinking about it and thought that I could contribute based on my historic perspective because I grew up here and went to the schools here from pre-K to graduation. My children attended Port Jeff schools. I have twin girls who graduated in 2010 and a son who graduated in 2015. 

I’ve done a lot of volunteer work here and I’ve learned a lot about working within organizations to help things grow and improve and just foster community excellence. I was a youth baseball coach for the village of Port Jefferson, volunteered on the Port Jefferson recreation committee and I was appointed to the Country Club Advisory and Management Council. Now I am the president of the Tuesday Tournament Group, which is actually a league that’s run as a board-run program. That’s a lot of work, too.

All that said, the point is I’ve been giving a lot of my time and I’ve been noticing and recognizing where there are opportunities for the village to see strategic growth and opportunities for impact and change.

What are your key takeaways from your father’s time in public office?

Lauren Sheprow (right) at the Mayor Harold J. Sheprow Parkland dedication ceremony at the Port Jefferson Country Club. Photo courtesy Sheprow

My father’s legacy of community involvement has always had a tremendous influence on my choices in life. He juggled so much — with help from my mother, of course. He was first and foremost an aeronautical engineer at [Northrop] Grumman, which is what brought us to Long Island in the first place. He also served, largely as a volunteer, as mayor, trustee, planning board chair and on the ambulance company as a volunteer EMS.

He had such a tremendous impact on this community with the annexation of the Hill Crest, Pine Hill, Ellen Drive, Laurita Gate and Jefferson’s Landing developments, and the acquisition of the country club being his two most significant contributions. 

I hope to be able to emulate his community service and give back by being elected as a trustee of Port Jefferson village. 

How is your background in media relations applicable to the work of a trustee?

I really feel like as a trustee, one of the most important things you can do is communicate to your constituency and communicate in a way that is transparent, concise, responsive and addresses the questions you are getting with answers and then potentially solutions.

At Stony Brook and at Mather Hospital, we had numerous inquiries and activities that had to be addressed at the same time. It was like drinking from the fire hose at Stony Brook, so you had to prioritize, you had to find the information that was going to be responsive to the questions you were getting from all angles — including from faculty, from administration, from students and from the media. We were responsive and accountable to everyone, and we had to do it in a way that was with the consensus of leadership. 

We needed to get answers quickly, accurately and comprehensively. That really trained me for a lot of adversity. It trained me to work in a calm and thorough manner, not to be driven by agendas or a sense of urgency, but to be driven by getting the information you need that is right, accurate and has the consensus of the people who are working on the things you’re trying to learn about. 

I think that bringing that skill set to a position on the Board of Trustees in Port Jefferson will help me really dig into some of the issues that are being expressed by villagers right now and look for solutions that are supported by facts, law and the code. The code really defines how you can move through a process, so I think relying on the code and the law is a really important part of what it means to be a public official. 

In the same way that at Stony Brook that I would ask as many questions as I could and get as many responses from as many different sources as I possibly could to make sure the response is accurate, concise and responsive, I would do the same in this position as trustee and follow up and communicate in the same way I have done my entire career. 

Sheprow during her daughters’ graduation ceremony. Photo courtesy Sheprow

What are the most critical issues facing the village?

I think the most interesting things that are happening right now are the revitalization of uptown Port Jefferson, one. Two, what’s happening at the country club right now. I see opportunities in both areas. And the Mather Hospital project is another very interesting issue that’s going on right now. Those are three of the most important things going on in the village right now.

In terms of the uptown Port Jefferson revitalization, the progress that’s going on there is tremendous. There’s a lot of interest from new developers. Attending the meetings of the Board of Trustees and following the progress, what I have learned is that there are new developers coming forward to propose new projects and to me that’s very exciting. Shovels in the ground means progress and creates excitement. It fosters the axiom that, “If you build it, they will come.” I believe that’s happening right now. 

The other issue or opportunity I see is bringing the country club back to all village residents. What I would love to work on is bringing the country club back to the community so that the community can enjoy it, not just as a golf course but as a place to foster a social and cultural environment. That’s what the purpose of the country club acquisition was originally, it’s in the original documentation. Let’s go back to the future and find a way to welcome all residents back to enjoy that facility in the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

And I’ll touch on the bluff for a second: the bluff and the country club are not one and the same. The bluff is village property. The village has got to safeguard its property, it’s got to safeguard those beaches and that groin. There is a roadway down to East Beach and there is a groin between that roadway and the country club parking lot. As the erosion continues, that groin will fail and you will lose access and you will lose the beach. That is one of the things that will happen if that bluff were not restored. 

It’s the village’s responsibility to take care of that property and this is the best way to do that right now. To me, it’s a no-brainer. And it’s not to preserve the building. It’s to preserve village property, the safety and security of village property. That’s what the role of the Board of Trustees is: to preserve and keep safe for the residents of the village, the property and the community.  

As trustee, my commitment is to get to the bottom of the issues at hand and proactively engage concerned villagers in the process.

— Lauren Sheprow

How can residents play a more active role in village decision-making?

Sheprow with twin newborn grandsons, Clayton and Wyatt, 2018. Photo courtesy Sheprow

The village offers ample opportunities to become involved in the decision making process, as is demonstrated by the numerous committees, councils and volunteer organizations that exist, including the page on the village website called “Get Involved.” 

There is an opportunity for a more robust and active recruitment for volunteers within these organizations — an experience I encountered while on the CCMAC and the Recreation Committee, which is currently dormant. 

Succession-planning on boards and committees is important, and village trustees as well as those board chairs should be thinking about that from the moment they begin their tenure, so when someone decides to resign or a term limit is reached, there is a resource already in place to step in with no down time. The Trustee Liaison to each respective committee or board should be responsible for that. 

It’s also clear that communication is an important factor and some in the village feel they aren’t getting the information they need to have an impact on decision-making. As someone who has worked in the strategic communications field for nearly four decades, I can say without hesitation that the communications resources and efforts from the village are robust and in accordance with village code. From the e-newsletter, to the YouTube Channel and streaming and posting to the archive live meetings, to the social media efforts, an incredibly responsive website, and other forms of email outreach, plenty of communications redundancy exists. 

What is also important is that residents know that if they want to express a concern or get involved, they will be acknowledged and responded to in a timely manner and can feel confident that their representative on the Board of Trustees will help resolve the issue at hand. As trustee, my commitment is to get to the bottom of the issues at hand and proactively engage concerned villagers in the process.

Sheprow was involved in the organization of the 40th reunion of the Port Jeff Class of ‘78, 2018. Photo courtesy Sheprow

Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?

I love this community, but that’s not what makes me stand out because I know everyone that’s running for these two seats loves this community as well and wants to see it thrive. 

Vision, coming up with creative solutions that don’t add an extra burden on the taxpayers, and knowing how to get things done is what set me apart at Stony Brook and at Mather Hospital and will serve me well as a trustee. I’m a questioner, a problem-solver and a communicator, but I also understand how difficult it can be to navigate the bureaucratic labyrinth from working at Stony Brook for so long, and at Mather. Both entities provided me with great insights into how to get things done within the public sector. 

I will hit the ground running. I have been attending board meetings, following the planning board and zoning board of appeals issues, and I have engaged in conversations with a number of people to understand what is most important to them and thinking about how it may be addressed or how to raise it as an issue. This is my commitment.

 

Port Jeff village trustee candidate on her global approach to local issues

Ana Hozyainova is running for Port Jefferson village trustee. Photo courtesy of Hozyainova

Ana Hozyainova is a candidate for trustee in the upcoming village election on June 21. During a recent interview, she discussed her background in social work, her experiences abroad, the threat of climate change to Port Jeff village, the East Beach Bluff and more. 

What is your background and why would you like to be involved in local government?

I would like to answer that in reverse order — why I would like to run and then how my background is beneficial in the service to the village.

One of the key things is that I would like to build upon and preserve the legacy that the village has already created. I see that the village, just like the rest of the nation and other municipalities, faces a number of challenges that are way outside of our control. For example, we are a coastal community that will suffer significantly with the worsening impact of climate change. The flooding will become only worse.

Ana Hozyainova (left) mediating a family conference. Photo courtesy of Hozyainova

We are a community that changes in its residential structure. The nation is aging and the nation is shrinking in certain ways, and this will have an impact on the village and the way the village works. We also as a village observed decline in our tax revenue, mainly through the LIPA gliding path. Any one of those challenges is already an issue that would require significant adjustment, but three of them together compound the issue and require a long-term vision and long-term solutions to the way the village functions. 

I hope to be able to engage in that process because I would like to make Port Jefferson my long-term home. I have a family here and I would like that family to continue to grow and stay in the village. For me, the role of the trustee is a person who sets the policies, sets standards and hires people to implement those policies. This is where I believe my skills and my background are incredibly useful for the village. 

I come with nearly two decades of experience of human rights work, international work. I worked in fields as diverse as countering violent extremism to working with mental health issues to doing community organizing to developing policies to address such thorny issues as: How do we still torture?

The sunrise over a landscape in Bamyan, Afghanistan, where Hozyainova worked for seven years. Photo taken by Hozyainova in 2011.

The issues I mentioned before are very difficult to address and they require creative thinking and problem-solving in order to develop a viable, functional solution. I believe that I have those solutions. I also have an education that is very helpful for that with a degree in social work from Columbia University. Part of the reason that I chose that school is that at the core of the teaching in my school, the person was put front and center. 

With a lot of the political decisions — be it raising of the taxes or changes in the code or restructuring the zoning of the village — it is very easy to forget the human that will be impacted by those decisions. I have the skills that would be required to actually look at who would be those people who would be affected and what can we do to make sure that our decisions serve the greatest good of everyone involved, that we’re not just doing quick and dirty “let’s fix this” and forget about the unintended consequences that might come out of those decisions. 

Hozyainova and a friend dance to the tango after a full day of reviewing and commenting on human rights reports, 2013. Photo courtesy of Hozyainova

Given your experiences abroad, why did you turn your focus inward toward local issues?

Again going back to my time at Columbia University — and the reason I mention it is because when I was there, I found it incredibly frustrating when my teachers would say, “Think small. Think of the impact that certain actions would have on people at the local level. Engage with the small steps first. Don’t try to change the whole system at the same time. It will become overwhelming and unmanageable. Think about issues that affect people on the ground, and from there start building up your intervention.”

As the years passed by, I’ve learned — despite my frustrations — that that’s indeed the true way to bring real change into the lives of the people. At the moment, my residency ended up in Port Jefferson by virtue of the people who I met, the person who I married. I feel that the work that can be done at the local level is no less important than any of the work that I could have done elsewhere. Right now, the moment has brought me to Port Jefferson and this is where my skills can be most useful and could be applied right now.

You have been a vocal proponent of reconfiguring roadways in the village. In your opinion, what is wrong with these roadways and how can they be improved?

The issue of walkability in Port Jefferson, especially pedestrian safety, is an issue that is very dear to me. I live in a residential neighborhood with two main roads that kind of hug the area. I walk those streets every day and I personally experience the impacts that speeding cars or reckless driving could have on pedestrians. 

It is the issue that I personally experience and that’s how I start organizing the work. I’ve heard too many people say this is dangerous and unsustainable, that they’re fearful of walking but it’s the only exercise that they have. So I rallied the community for stop signs on California Avenue as an interim measure to assess what other possible solutions can be brought in to improve pedestrian safety. 

As I did that work, I also got in touch with other residents in the village who also voiced their concerns and discovered that it is a systematic problem, that many people face issues about safety on the roads. What I hope to do is a systematic assessment of what can be done in Port Jefferson to make it more walkable as a village because our ability to walk is one of the prerequisites for developing strong, friendly communities. That is how my activism on pedestrian safety has started. 

The issues that I would like to address if I were elected are the questions of transparency in the village.

— Ana Hozyainova

What are the most critical issues facing the village?

Hozyainova collaborated with the policeman above to investigate and eradicate torture in the community and to facilitate public engagement, 2016. Photo courtesy of Hozyainova

I mentioned earlier that climate change, the change and declining population nationwide and the lowering of the tax base are the crucial aspects that we are facing as a village. The issues that I would like to address if I were elected are the questions of transparency in the village.

By this, I mean that we have a number of pretty large projects that are developing in the village that have not received adequate public consultation, and the village has not made the effort to engage the community in the level that it should have. For example, the question of the $10 million that was borrowed to stabilize the [East Beach] Bluff. I personally have a lot of questions about how the project was designed, what other issues have been explored or addressed, also to hear what the rest of the residents want to say or have priorities for, and how they conceptualize and prioritize that as an issue. 

I believe that the village has not had adequate engagement on those issues. The presentation on the bluff is available on YouTube, but that information does not adequately reflect the complexity of the issues that we are facing. For example, when we have a Dickens Festival, we don’t just publish a legal notice that there will be a festival and forget about it. We actually make a campaign, we engage people, we invite people over and over and over again, and the festival is a success.

So similar things need to happen when we are making decisions about the village such as the bluff or as small as figuring out the budget. What are the priorities for spending that would be in the residents’ interests? Transparency is one of the core areas to be developed if I were elected.

The other issue is climate change. Coming back to the question of the bluff, part of the reason why we have this situation is the way that climate change is exacerbating the storms and thus speeding up the erosion of the bluff. It’s a man-made issue: The harbor where the bluff sits used to be salt marshes. The movement of water in the salt marshes is significantly slower than in the dredged marshes that created Mount Sinai Harbor, which subsequently affected our bluff.

We are dealing with a double whammy of the harbor that we’ve created. I love this beach, I enjoy having access to that beach, but that beach is exacerbating the erosion of the bluff along with the more severe storms. I believe we will need a greater consultation about how we spend the rest of the money that has already been allocated for the upper part of the bluff. If elected, that will definitely become one of my priorities. 

How can residents play a more active role in decision-making?

Part of it is the way the village engages with the village. For example, the Village of Port Jefferson doesn’t have a civic association. It has a range of working committees, but it doesn’t have a civic association that will collect or take the views of residents who might not be able to attend the public meetings held once a month at 6 o’clock. 

Until I became engaged in the traffic safety issues, I found it very difficult to make my way to those meetings. It’s only after I rallied the community and took on the weight of their trust that I started making the time to go to those meetings.

If I were elected, I would explore a range of issues to engage more with the residents. One of them would be, for example, having a weekly time slot at the farmers market where one trustee can man a booth every week, so the residents wouldn’t have to go out of their way to engage the government. At the moment, I feel that the local village government is not doing enough to engage with the residents.

Ana Hozyainova drinks tea in Istanbul after a long day of interviews with community members and traders, 2018. Photo courtesy of Hozyainova

Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?

To summarize my message, I believe that I possess the skills and experience that are required to serve as a trustee. If elected, I would be putting the residents front and center of my work in making sure that they are consulted and engaged, and that the best interests of all of the residents are considered.

 

Port Jeff village trustee candidate’s creative approach to decision-making

Gerard Gang is running for Port Jefferson village trustee. Photo by Joe Iasso

By Raymond Janis

This week, TBR News Media sat down with Gerard Gang, candidate in the upcoming Village of Port Jefferson trustee elections June 21. In our interview, Gang discussed his professional background in packaging, his plans to improve senior services, cultural programs in the village, and more. 

What is your background and why would you like to be involved in local government?

First, I want to say that I am honored to be introduced to the public. For those who don’t know me, I live in Port Jefferson and have been here for 32 years. My wife, Patty, and I have raised two children in the school district. She was a teacher’s assistant in the elementary school and is the hearts of many children no matter where we go.

Professionally, I come from a background in fragrance and cosmetic packaging as a design director. I was responsible for both the marketing and the creative services. Combined with my other creative professional skills, this will be excellent experience and an asset to the role of trustee. 

I want to be a representative of the residents. I’m retired and have the time to be involved in our wonderful village and to create ways of communicating better between the residents and the village. I was a member of the economic development council that founded the farmers market, and I was also a member of the [village] Beautification Committee. I am presently on the Six Acre Park Committee, helping to conceptualize the arboretum and walking park in Upper Port. As residents come to know me, they will learn that I am always willing to listen and make the necessary changes within myself for those whom I may represent. 

I also believe that we need to preserve our history, to strengthen our relationships and opportunities, and to optimize our facilities and programs. We need to create new experiences, foster new ideas and increase our revenue to prevent further financial hardship on the taxpayer, who is already struggling with inflation and other economic restraints caused by the pandemic.

A trustee must wear many hats and accept the challenges that no doubt will arise. I am ready, willing and excited to do just that. 

Can you describe your experience working with the Six Acre Park Committee?

I have been on the committee since April. Some of my background is in landscaping. As a child, I worked on a farm for years and all the way through college. My interest was to develop a beautiful arboretum. There’s such a need in Upper Port to establish something beautiful, something to enjoy. 

We have the condos up there and the new apartments being established. Those people need to have a place where they can walk, meditate and just relax. I think it’s so important for the hospital workers up there. On a stressful day, it would be nice to take 10 minutes to take a stroll through something that’s beautiful, something that’s natural. 

How is your professional experience applicable to the work of a trustee?

My experience in packaging — as well as in landscape design, floral design and interior design — has taught me how to focus. 

In package design, especially in the studio where I worked, we worked directly with the printer, so we were actually on board when a color was mixed. My eye is extremely sensitive. People will say, “That’s black,” when it’s actually a blue-black, or it has a little bit of a red cast to it. My keen eye will help to take this beautiful village and move it into the future. 

A design put together by Gang during his time as a design director of fragrance and cosmetic packaging. Photo courtesy of Gang

It is important to me to hold onto the village’s historic character. I believe in the restoration of Upper Port and I hope to be working with the Architectural Review Committee to update design guidelines to preserve the village’s charm, the integrity of the materials used and the colors selected.  

In your opinion, what are the most critical issues facing the village?

The erosion of the bluff and the bond issue is a pretty big topic. I believe in the initial Phase I to establish the lower wall so that we can still have access to the beach. Until all of the information is presented about the upper wall — the drainage and whether to save the club — I will await making any decision until all facts are gathered and until we know what funding is available. 

The other issue facing the village is the decline in student enrollment within our school district. The well-being of our children is very important to me. As a trustee, I will work to make sure that an ample population of students is maintained so that the diverse assortment of programs and activities are available to them. I will foster ideas on the possibility of rezoning the school district to include all of Port Jefferson. In rezoning, we would increase the diversity of our students and, in turn, our state aid while hopefully keeping our school taxes balanced. For many, rezoning would lower their school taxes while enriching our programs and also provide a full-day pre-K program. 

Another critical issue is increasing village revenue to offset our increases in taxes. I have the knowledge to build upon the revenue in our village by staying within our budget allowances. Through new programs at the Village Center, the country club, the beach and within our village, we have the ability to generate profits that can stabilize our taxes while also providing quality programs for all ages. 

I do support the restoration of Upper Port. It needs to happen and it would be a benefit for all of us as that’s the gateway into our village. I would work with the Architectural Review Committee and with the planning committee to do that. 

What are your thoughts on the availability of cultural programs in the village and is there room for expansion?

There is definitely room for expansion. We have a lot of cultural aspects in the village and one of my platforms is to optimize the Village Center to create more programs and revenue. Through the years, I have been a floral designer, a coordinator of fundraisers, a curator of art exhibits and local art groups. I have the knowledge and the ability to organize events and build upon the revenue of the venue. 

Gerard Gang with a Port Jefferson resident discussing his plans for a council on aging. Photo by Joe Iasso

One of my ideas is to develop new programs at the Village Center. One of them would be to create an opportunity for the disabled and the autistic children to express themselves and communicate through art. My wife worked in the school as a teaching assistant and I know that many of these children express themselves and communicate better through art. I would like to encourage the public to host special events through dinners and senior programs there.

I would also like to create a council for the aging committee. Through educational programs, special events and weekly gatherings, we as a community can address and assist our seniors in their needs. There are so many older people in our village that have been the founders of the village, that have been the strength of the village. It would be wonderful for them to be able to live out their full lives in the village. 

What are some ways in which the Village Center can be upgraded?

The Village Center is a wonderful building. There are so many opportunities there and it’s wonderful to see that two of the class reunions for the high school are now going to be in the Village Center. It’s great to see that it’s beginning to be used for different reasons. All it takes is one person to come in and say, “Wow, this can be a great environment.” 

I have actually done a wedding there. Once you are on the second and third floors, it’s a wonderful environment. It’s beautiful and the view out the window is incredible. With the proper resources and event planners, with flowers and catering, it can be an even more beautiful venue. 

I would like to encourage brides to come in and take a look at the place. If you are having a special event, a party or a family reunion, the opportunity is there. I would like to make some small changes downstairs so that as you walk in, it has that appeal that would make you want to host a special occasion there. 

Gerard and his wife, Patricia, near the Brookhaven Marina and Port Jefferson-Bridgeport Ferry Terminal, above. Photo by Joe Iasso

How can residents play a more active role in decision-making?

As I went door to door, I spoke to so many people about their concerns. I listened to their stories and everything else. What I want to express to so many of the people is that I ask the residents to reach out, to become more active, to communicate and to show up to our village meetings.

The trustees are here to listen to you, so communicate with them. Voice your opinions because your concerns are my concerns and they should be the trustees’ concerns. As I like to say, one positive thought creates one positive word and results in a positive action. As much as you can communicate, it just opens up doors for things to change.

There are so many positive things to look at, to enjoy and to talk about. We should build upon the positives of the village, not just upon the negatives. — Gerard Gang

Is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?

I actually hope to continue to meet more people. I so enjoy campaigning, meeting so many new people, talking to young people, older people. It was wonderful to come upon the seniors of our village and to listen to their stories. It was just so nice to interact with them because they need to talk and they want to socialize. 

There are so many positive things to look at, to enjoy and to talk about. We should build upon the positives of the village, not just upon the negatives. Like I said before, you take a positive word and it becomes an idea and then it turns into a positive action. 

I hope to become a trustee. It’s in my blood now — the passion that I have to help people and to help the village.