Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen talked roads, technology, budgeting and government transparency during a gathering at the Rockville Centre Public Library on May 16.
The event was part of Gillen’s “Community Town Hall” series, which will continue through June at other local libraries in the Town of Hempstead. Joining the supervisor was Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana, Joseph Davenport, executive assistant for infrastructure, and Tom Doheny, commissioner of conservation and waterways, who all were on hand to answer questions from attendees.
Gillen gave a presentation to roughly 50 residents of Rockville Centre and nearby communities, such as Oceanside and Freeport, about the projects she’s undertaken while in office, as well as what is under way. In addition, Cabana shared information about her role in office, which includes providing town records dating back to the 1600s, officiating marriages — sometimes on the beach for the town’s own “destination weddings” — and issuing permits and licenses, among other duties.
She and Gillen, she said, “ran on trying to make government more organized, more successful, more transparent,” Cabana said, noting that she has translated several town documents to Spanish since she took office.
Gillen focused heavily on the efforts she and her staff have made to bring the town’s administration and community services into the digital age. This includes new road technologies to measure which streets need the most repairs, as well as a new phone application and website to make town information accessible to residents. “We are slowly migrating to the 21st century,” Gillen told the room.
The supervisor spoke about economic development in the town, as well as the annual town budget. She emphasized that the new Nassau Hub Project would prioritize jobs for local workers and implement union training programs in construction and electrical work.
In terms of town spending, Gillen noted that the town’s contracts are now available online and the town is striving to be transparent with residents about its financial situation. “My priority is to save taxpayer dollars any way I can, and we had a very lean budget and taxes went down in a non-election year,” Gillen said.
When it was time for questions, an Oceanside resident of 28 years asked Gillen about affordable housing for seniors. Gillen responded, “Prices of homes are going up and up and up. . . . For so long, affordable housing had this stigma attached to it, but affordable housing makes sure that people can afford to live in Nassau County.”
Gillen also noted that the town has received a grant to do a comprehensive housing study to determine affordable housing options that could benefit residents of all kinds — seniors, recent college graduates, single parents — in the Town of Hempstead.
Other concerns from residents included road reconstruction, flooding in Oceanside, accessing Town Board meeting transcripts and the recent Nassau County property re-assessments. Gillen offered resources for all of these — however, as property re-assessments are a county issue, she said, she did not wish to comment on them.
Rockville Centre resident Arielle Kane attended the meeting and said she was impressed by Gillen’s ideas and efforts, such as updating contracts to save money.
“I was grateful that the supervisor was able to make a presentation to inform residents about the state of her administration,” Kane said. “I had not come in contact with this information in the past, and I left feeling more informed.”