Decades of manual labor for the Hempstead Town government have not exactly prepared Jeffrey Kruska for his role as the town's unofficial disc jockey. But that is what he has become.
Kruska spends most of his workday overseeing a crew of 18 laborers who carry out repairs at town facilities. But for the past year, he also has been tasked with selecting the music that plays outside Hempstead Town Hall five days a week, 11 hours a day. From his basement office and a closet-sized control room nearby, Kruska creates the soundtrack to Hempstead's daily operations, a job that's raised his profile among the town's thousands of employees.
"A lot of people call me 'DJ Jazzy Jeff,' which is kind of annoying," said Kruska, 54, of Bellmore. "But I guess I kind of asked for it."
Kruska, who has worked for the town for about 35 years, said he fell into the role last summer, when he put a speaker on the roof of the town hall pavilion and played music off his iPad during a public event in the neighboring courtyard. The songs went over well, he said, so town workers mounted permanent speakers outside the pavilion shortly thereafter and handed the controls over to Kruska.
The music, a mix of Internet radio stations and selections from Kruska's own digital collection, skews toward easy listening. At times the songs can be incongruous with the goings-on around town hall.
"This isn't a good song for a wedding," Kruska observed on a recent afternoon, as newlyweds took pictures in the courtyard while the speakers emitted a song with the refrain, "it must have been love, but it's over now."
Kruska said he tries to keep visitors to town hall entertained with his selections, but he's careful to keep them context-appropriate.
"It's an office building — we're not here to have a party," he said. "You can't really blast rap music if people are walking into town hall to do business here."
The work requires some attention, said Joseph Meola, a maintenance mechanic who helps Kruska with the music. Meola recalled a day when an internet radio station accidentally played the same song on repeat for three hours before anyone at town hall noticed and put on something else.
"It was literally playing Justin Timberlake all morning long," Meola said.
While Kruska does not have prior DJ experience, he noted he was the singer of a band called The Scoundrels when he was a teenager growing up in Merrick. The band did not have any performances.
"We were a garage band that stayed in the garage," he said.
Kruska's current musical undertaking has gained him a larger pool of listeners, some of whom praised the music on a recent afternoon outside town hall.
"I think it's very nice," said Jean Stevens, an independent contractor from Massapequa, after representing a client before the town's board of appeals.
"It gives you a nice serene feeling when you're going into the craziness inside," she said.
Recent Hempstead Town Hall playlist:
- Eurythmics: "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"
- Pink: “Just like Fire”
- Michael Jackson: “The Way You Make Me Feel”