“Frank DeRubeis is an exceptional man with a wide breadth of knowledge in so many fields. That knowledge, I believe, inspired so many of his planning initiatives. There was never any doubt about his commitment and dedication to the Town of Smithtown and it is for that reason that I relied and trusted his judgments and advice. So many of his planning initiatives are now part of the Smithtown landscape and have helped make Smithtown the great town it is. I shall sorely miss him.” Smithtown Supervisor Patrick R. Vecchio.
When Frank DeRubeis leaves his office on Friday, August 29th (retirement begins on September 1) it will be for the last time as Director of Planning and Community Development for the Town of Smithtown. A position he has held since 1985.
Frank began his career as a planner for the town in 1973 earning an annual salary of $8,500. Thirty-one years later he enjoys the status of being the highest paid employee in the town. The economics of retirement is what drove him to retire. DeRubeis is 68 and in good health, but he is realistic, retirement ensures that his wife will be provided for should something happen to him. He sees retirement as necessary rather than something he is doing willingly. “Everyone keeps telling me congratulations, but it doesn’t feel like congratulations. I don’t want to be rude to people, but it’s not something I feel like celebrating.”
Sitting with Frank in early August he reflected on his thirty-one year career in Smithtown. Clearly he is proud of his staff and their professionalism. He ferverntly supports a resident’s right to access information and keeping public records open. Ask about his successes and he talks about the Galleria project on Terry Rd. in Smithtown. A once blighted site that housed a concrete operation, sand mine and construction equipment storage facility, it was transformed into a thriving development of homes, condominiums and apartments. The residential area is surrounded by commercial development - a CVS, Maureen’s Kitchen, Tutor Time and more. He talks about the Charles P. Toner Park in Nesconset, the site of the former Amory. But clearly he is most proud of the 9/11 Memorial Park on Main St. in Smithtown. The project, according to Frank, enjoyed the support of the public, many of whom made generous donations thus making it one of the few town projects where money was not an issue. The park is not only filled with memories it is functional and visited by residents and those visiting Smithtown.
DeRubeis has a few regrets. The fact that he couldn’t convice the Town to take over the Kings Park Psychiatric Center still stings. “I felt from day one that we should have taken it all. The entity that cares most about the commity will be the Town, not Albany, you know, and I thought we should handle it just like Islip handled Central Islip. Yes it would have cost us a lot of effort, but I think in the long run if you have the chance to direct what’s in your town, you should handle it.” Not completing the Master Plan is another regret, as is losing the battle over the Hess station on Harned and Jericho Tpke. in Commack.
While Frank DeRubeis has many supporters, there are some who blame him for Smithtown’s stagnation and accuse him of being an obstructionist. “Not true! Our records tell a different story.” DeRubeis explained that applicants often come in without complete or accurate applications making delays unavoidable. “I oppose projects that I believe are harmful or injurious to the public.” Frank’s philosophy has remained the same since he started in 1973 ” I have to remind my planners, our job is finding out what the community wants and then to figure out how to get what they want in the best ways possible. It’s a means towards and end. You’re not implementing your ideas, you are getting the community what it wants. Those are the people who are hiring you. That’s important. A lot of times people and planners are coming up with stuff because they want to do all these crazy things, but the issue is you look at a community and you try to discern what their needs are and then define how they want to develop. If people in the Town of Smithtown want to change downtown Smithtown to have ten story buidings and parking garages, that’s their choice, it’s not up to me.”
What’s in DeRubeis’s future? “Well I have told the Supervisor I am not going into private consulting.” Retirement from Smithtown does not mean that Frank is leaving the Town completely. He would very much like to complete his work on the Master Plan and he is more than willing to donate his time if town board members agree. Photography is a hobby of his and he plans to take photography classes at Stony Brook University. Teaching at a college or planning in a different capacity are ideas he is considering.
Frank DeRubeis will leave his office on August 29 and his life will change and so will Smithtown. All the best to you in the next chapter of your life Frank DeRubeis!