In a village where no two houses are alike, a unique mayor, who embraced residents with family and tradition during his 11-year tenure, stepped down Aug. 31.
Mayor Thomas Van Buskirk, who served as the mayor of Bellerose Village since April 5, 1993, has left office due to a busy job schedule. He is the director of global operations for a major international law firm.
To finish Van Buskirk's term, which would have ended in March 2005, the board of trustees appointed Trustee Sarah Jo Hamilton at the Aug. 23 board meeting. "He fostered a real sense of community and I think it is permanently entrenched now to continue it. He is a very special man and was a very special mayor," Hamilton said of the former mayor.
Van Buskirk and his wife, Roberta, are responsible for the revival of Bellerose Village Day, which will be held Sept. 18. Hundreds of residents participate, biannually, in a carnival that shuts down traffic on Superior Road and includes games, races and an evening barbecue.
"My wife and I have a lot of fun doing it. My family has been very supportive. Both of our sons, Tom and Chris, have been very much a part of this as well," Van Buskirk said.
Tom Van Buskirk, the mayor's son, established the Bellerose Village website, bellerosevillage.org, which, according to the mayor, gets an average of 500 hits per day. The website has a message from the mayor, village handbook, calendar of events, photo gallery, village code, frequently asked questions, link to the fire department and contact information.
The mayor served as a member of the fire department and was on the board of trustees from 1988-1992. After the tragedy on September 11, 2001, the children of the community made ribbons for all residents, a candlelight vigil was held and a memorial was dedicated to those who perished.
To conclude his final board meeting, Van Buskirk thanked everyone and said, "It is a job that I cherished and a job that I loved. It has been a lot of fun and I've had a lot of laughs and a lot of anger, but the laughs and the fun really outweighed it and it has been an honor to sit here."
Speaking about his service to the community, Van Buskirk continued, "What we try to tell people is that all of us on the board are volunteers and whatever we decide affects us as much as anyone else."
Bill Palminteri, liaison for Four Village Studio, a government access television studio for residents of Bellerose, Floral Park, Stewart Manor and South Floral Park, said, "He's done a terrific job with the village. I have seen the difference."
The mayor and his wife will be honored Sept. 18 with the "Good Friend and Neighbor Award," at the Spirit of Floral Park Award ceremony being held at the Recreational/Pool Building in Floral Park.
Mrs. Van Buskirk will be sending out invitations for a farewell party, to be held Oct. 21 at the Stewart Manor Country Club, starting at 7:30 p.m. for all village residents.
Floral Park Mayor Ann Corbett extended her best wishes to Van Buskirk and looks forward to presenting him with the Spirit of Floral Park Good Neighbor Award during Floral Park's upcoming Spirit Days.