The question of how involved Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick has been in talks with the Chinese Zhondge Group to build a waste-to-energy incinerator in south Freeport has been a point of concern among local residents since news of the proposal broke last month.
At a village meeting last week, Hardwick reportedly denied claims that he was seeking to build the plant, saying instead that the village was looking at "energy options," according to people at the meeting.
Those people, who are close to this story, said they believe the mayor is attempting to create the impression that the village isn't seeking such a plant, which generates electricity by burning garbage. The mayor, they say, claims he has not seen plans for an incinerator and that there is no specific proposal for one, and he would appreciate it if residents did not use the word "incinerator."
Lamou Keita, of Freeport's public relations department, said in a telephone interview, "Freeport does not have incinerator project," nor would it, she said, for the "foreseeable future."
But when asked why Hardwick had been in talks with Zhongde, and why the mayor was photographed with Chinese officials in December, she repeated the refrain: "The only information I can give you is that Freeport does not have an incinerator project."
According to inside sources, the mayor doesn't currently have enough votes on the village board to win approval for the plan, with Trustee Bobby Kennedy coming out publicly against it. But sources close to the mayor say they believe he has not killed the project. And officials at the Town of Hempstead, which recently sent out a mailer opposing the plan, say they have not heard that the project is off. So, according to accounts from several knowledgeable sources, the planned incinerator remains, at the least, a possibility.
Nassau County Legislator David Denenberg, a Democrat from Merrick, who opposes a waste-to-energy plant in Freeport, said, "I believe that it is incumbent on the mayor that he make a public announcement that this plan is off the table –– now and forever. Until then, the issue will continue to elicit opinions and comments from elected officials like myself, journalists and the people I represent."