One-on-one with Gérard Gang | TBR News Media
By Raymond Janis
This week, TBR News Media spoke with Gerard Gang, a candidate for the upcoming Port Jefferson Village Trustees election on June 21. and more.
What is your background and why would you want to be involved in local government?
First of all, 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 raised two children in the school district. She was an elementary school teacher’s aide and is the heart of many children no matter where we go.
Professionally, I come from a background in perfumery and cosmetic packaging as a design director. I was responsible for both marketing and creative services. Combined with my other creative professional skills, it will be an excellent experience and an asset for the role of trustee.
I want to be a representative of the inhabitants. I’m retired and have time to get involved in our wonderful village and create ways to better connect residents and the village. I was a member of the economic development board that founded the farmers’ market, and I was also a member of the [village] Beautification committee. I am currently on the Six Acre Park Committee and helping to conceptualize the Upper Port Arboretum and Walking Park. As residents get to know me, they will learn that I am always willing to listen and make the necessary changes in myself for those I represent.
I also believe that we must preserve our history, strengthen our relationships and opportunities, and optimize our facilities and programs. We need to create new experiences, foster new ideas and increase our revenues to avoid further financial hardship for the taxpayer, who is already struggling with inflation and other economic strains caused by the pandemic.
A trustee must wear many hats and accept the challenges that will undoubtedly 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. Part of my background is in landscaping. As a child, I worked on a farm for years and throughout college. My interest was to develop a beautiful arboretum. There is such a need in Upper Port to establish something beautiful, something to enjoy.
We have the condos there and the new apartments being established. These people need a place where they can walk, meditate and just relax. I think it’s so important to the hospital workers there. On a stressful day, it would be nice to take 10 minutes to wander into something beautiful, something natural.
How does your professional experience apply to trustee work?
My background in packaging—as well as landscaping, floral design, and interior design—taught me to focus.
In packaging design, especially in the studio where I worked, we worked directly with the printer, so we were really on board when a color was mixed. My eye is extremely sensitive. People will say, “It’s black,” when it’s actually a blue-black, or there’s a bit of red in it. My keen eye will help take this beautiful village and move it into the future.
It is important to me to preserve the historic character of the village. I believe in the restoration of Upper Port and hope to work with the Architectural Review Board to update the design guidelines to preserve the charm of the village, the integrity of the materials used and the colors chosen.
What do you think are the most critical issues facing the village?
The erosion of bluffing and bond issuance 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 the information is presented on the upper wall – the drainage and whether to save the club – I will wait to make a decision until all the facts are gathered and until we know what funding is available.
The other issue facing the village is declining student enrollment in our school district. The well-being of our children is very important to me. As administrator, I will work to ensure that a sufficient population of students is maintained so that the diverse assortment of programs and activities are available to them. I will encourage ideas about the possibility of rezoning the school district to include all of Port Jefferson. By rezoning, we would increase the diversity of our students and therefore our state aid while hopefully keeping our school taxes in balance. For many, rezoning would reduce their school taxes while enriching our programs and also providing a full-day pre-kindergarten program.
Another critical issue is increasing village revenue to compensate for our tax increases. I have the knowledge to leverage our village’s income within our budget allocations. With new programs at the village center, country club, beach and within our village, we have the ability to generate profits that can stabilize our taxes while providing quality programs for all ages.
I support the restoration of Upper Port. It has to happen and it would be a benefit for all of us because it is the gateway to our village. I would work with the architectural review committee and with the planning committee to do this.
What do you think of 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 center of the village to create more programs and income. Over the years I have been a floral designer, fundraising coordinator, curator of art exhibits and local artist groups. I have the knowledge and ability to organize events and leverage venue revenue.
One of my ideas is to develop new programs at the Village Center. One of them would be to create an opportunity for children with disabilities and autism to express themselves and communicate through art. My wife worked at the school as a teaching assistant and I know that many of these children express themselves and communicate best through art. I would like to encourage the public to organize special events there through dinners and programs for seniors.
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 meet the needs of our seniors and help them. There are so many old people in our village who were the founders of the village, who were the strength of the village. It would be wonderful for them to be able to fully live their life in the village.
In what ways can the village center be improved?
The center of the village is a magnificent building. There are so many opportunities there and it’s wonderful to see that two of the class reunions for high school will now take place in the center of the village. It’s great to see that it’s starting to be used for different reasons. All it takes is one person to walk in and say, “Wow, this can be a great environment.”
I actually had a wedding there. Once you are on the second and third floors it is a wonderful environment. It’s beautiful and the view out the window is amazing. With the proper resources and event planners, along with flowers and catering, it can be an even more beautiful venue.
I would like to encourage brides to come in and have a look around. If you are organizing a special event, a party or a family reunion, the opportunity is there. I’d like to make a few small changes downstairs so that upon entering it has that appeal that would make you want to have a special occasion there.
How can residents play a more active role in decision-making?
Going door to door, I spoke to so many people about their concerns. I listened to their stories and everything. What I want to express to so many people is that I ask the locals to reach out, become more active, communicate and show up at our village meetings.
The trustees are there to listen to you, so communicate with them. Express your opinions because your concerns are my concerns and they should be those of the administrators. As I like to say, a positive thought creates a positive word and results in a positive action. As much as you can communicate, it just opens doors for things to change.
There are so many positive things to watch, enjoy and talk about. We should build on the positives of the village, not just the negatives. —Gerard Gang
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
In fact, I hope to continue to meet more people. I love campaigning so much, meeting so many new people, talking to young people, old people. It was wonderful to meet the elderly people of our village and listen to their stories. It was so nice to interact with them because they need to talk and they want to socialize.
There are so many positive things to watch, enjoy and talk about. We should build on the positives of the village, not just 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 — my passion for helping people and helping the village.