A look at the new Nassau Legislature


The Nassau County Legislature will have a different look on Jan. 1, with Republicans picking up one additional seat on Election Day, strengthening their majority to 11 seats over the Democrats’ 8.

There will also be new faces on both sides of the aisle, including Republicans Laura Schaefer and Donald MacKenzie, and Democrats Laura Curran and Ellen Birnbaum.

Schaefer ran unopposed in the 14th District, a seat vacated by Republican Joe Belesi. MacKenzie defeated Democratic challenger Dave Gugerty in the 18th District by more than 2,000 votes.

Curran replaces longtime Democratic legislator Joseph Scannell in the 5th District, and Birnbaum takes the reins in the 10th District, a seat formerly held by Democrat Judi Bosworth, who successfully ran for Town of North Hempstead Supervisor.

The new legislators match the number who remain in office since the Legislature’s inception in 1996 — Republicans Francis Becker (6th District), Vincent Muscarella (8th District) and Dennis Dunne (15th District), and Democrat Judith Jacobs (16th District).

Nassau County’s 19 Legislative districts were redrawn earlier this year, a requirement every 10 years by the county charter to account for updated census data. The new lines shifted Democratic Delia DeRiggi-Whitton into the 11th District, a North Shore seat held by fellow Democrat Wayne Wink since 2007.

After initially considering a run for county comptroller, Wink chose to run for town clerk in the Town of North Hempstead, a race he won.

In the new district lines, David Denenberg picked up most of Wantagh/Seaford in his 19th district, Norma Gonsalves’ 13th district includes North Wantagh and Rose Marie Walker’s 17th district now includes North Seaford. Dennis Dunne’s 15th district no longer includes Wantagh/Seaford.

Wantagh/Seaford’s legislators offered their comments to The Citizen:

Norma Gonsalves

Nassau Legislature Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves was re-elected to the Legislature’s 13th District.

Said Mrs. Gonsalves, “This is who I am. I do work with a sense of dedication and commitment. And that dedication and commitment has not dwindled in the least in the long tenure of my legislative office.

“I’m going to continue to serve and do the best I can to meet the needs of my constituents. and I truly say thank you to them all for maintaining that trust and confidence in me.”

When asked about her top priorities for the coming legislative term, she replied “the major thing I want to to make sure we continue to work at is the fiscal stability of the county. We have to continue to find every means to keep taxes stable, to create the jobs and make sure that Nassau County continues to be the best place to work and raise a family. That’s what I want to see.”

Mrs. Gonsalves “sees good things in the months ahead.” She looks forward to the coliseum plan being carried out, “and that materializing into a job creator.”

In conclusion, Mrs. Gonsalves described her approach to legislating: “Constituent service has always been my priority and I will continue to deliver.”

Rose Marie Walker

After winning her fourth term as a member of the Nassau Legislature, Rose Marie Walker answers the phone with the sound of her grandchilden audible. When asked how to fit time for them along with helping to run the county, she replies “You just make it work.” When she’s not legislating, she enjoys taking care of the grandchildren, and takes them to meetings occasionally – “especially a senior meeting.”

In her recent campaign, which she described as “wonderful,” she was undeterred by the fact that she faced minimal opposition in the contest. “I campaign as if I had the hardest opponent.” She tries to go to everything to which she is invited, to talk to and listen to people. “I wanted even more to meet as many people as possible in the Seaford part of my district.” She was pleased with the results of the election countywide – “people worked very hard.

When asked what is the most important thing for the legislature to do moving forward, Mrs. Walker has two vital concerns: The county’s sewage treatment plants – “The plants need to be fixed,” and assessment – “we need to get it [the assessment system] in order.” Other matters need to be addressed: Infrastructure and bringing more business to the area.

The new year will bring new faces to Mineola for what Mrs. Walker hopes will be a productive term. “It’s important for all of us to work together, put politics aside. We have two years before we run again.” In the meantime, she looks forward to working with the new legislators, and will miss outgoing legislator Joe Belesi and other departing members. Of the Legislature, see insists that in spite of any arguments, “No matter what...you’re a family.”

David Denenberg

Nassau Legislator David Denenberg was re-elected to a new term on November 5, and gave The Herald the following response to the results on Election night:

“It's humbling and gratifying to be reelected with such a plurality, particularly given the over-the-top negative campaign against me and the registration disadvantage I have in this district. I always feel that voters are much smarter than elected officials and campaigns give them credit for. So I stayed positive and worked hard.

With respect to the county executive race, I’m concerned that the county is moving in the wrong direction in terms of the budget, taxes, our infrastructure including sewage treatment plants, and sustainaablity. As always, I'll be the first to work across party lines. The overall negative tenor of this campaign might make that hard for us. But we’ll do it.”

When The Herald later asked Mr. Denenberg for his priorities in the coming term, he noted the importance of budget, tax and sustainability issues – county issues he sees as intertwined.

Mr. Denenberg, however, described his number one priority as Sandy-related: “Getting people back to their homes and businesses, and helping them receive the insurance payments they are entitled to – and relief from NY Rising’s distribution of federal grant money promised after the president’s appropriation passed congress in February.”

Noting that much Sandy street flooding resulted from storm drains, Mr. Denenberg also wants to advocate for the proper spending of “municipal grants from NY Rising being used to mitigate against future storms through installation of backflow devices with gate valves and constant pressure.” This is needed to “protect the low-lying streets that flooded in Irene and Sandy from water through storm drains as well as for street elevation, seawalls and other proper storm control measures that our towns and villages have needed for too long.”

And how will he approach a new term? He mentioned a bill from the last session requiring banks to promptly pay homeowners for Sandy losses that wasn’t given a vote on the grounds that it was not a matter the legislature could influence. Mr. Denenberg stated “The Leadership can promote bipartisanship by calling bills on both sides. Under Judy Jacobs, Republicans could make motions. Now, Democrats can’t make motions. This is not satisfactory.”

– Mark Treske