Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen covered a lot of ground in her community town hall presentation at Lawrence High School on March 10, then the roughly 40 Five Towns residents got their chance to ask questions.
Gillen, who was elected to the post in 2017, is the first Democratic supervisor Hempstead in more than a century. The town has 1,200 miles of roadway, and she noted that the infrastructure is aging. There are also roughly 30,000 catch basins and a newly purchased additional vacuum truck through a state grant is helping to double the cleanup speed.
“Potholes and roads are the biggest number of complaints we receive,” she said, adding that potholes are being filled at an unprecedented rate, but the issue is not only the weather but also money. Gillen noted that in 2016, the town spent $5 million and just over the same amount in 2017. Last year is was $17.5 million and a capital improvement plan is aiming to have $30 million for repaving the roads, she said.
Running down the countywide projects, Gillen noted the Nassau Coliseum development that is expected to have 600,000-square-feet dedicated to biotech space and 200,000-square-feet of retail shops and restaurants. On the proposed Belmont project and the building of a sports arena, she said that a Long Island Rail Road train station would be “an incredible resource for the people there.”
Gillen also noted the Inwood Transit Development, a proposed mixed-use project to improve the area between Doughty Boulevard in Inwood and Lawrence Avenue in North Lawrence, and the installation of a backup generator and resiliency upgrades for Atlantic Beach Rescue.
The town received a credit upgrade, there was a non-election year tax cut in 2018, a competitive bidding process was implemented and more than $8 million was restored to the reserve fund, she said. Also helping to keep costs down, Gillen said that there are 1,850 full-time employees, the lowest staffing budget in recent history, a 12 percent reduction or $330,000 less in overtime pay and a 5 percent reduction ($800,000) in part-time and seasonal labor. “We are refinancing debt, based on market conditions, to save taxpayers money,” she said.
North Woodmere resident Teri Schure introduced the water problem in the Five Towns. “There is brown water and shades of light yellow in the water,” Schure said. “There is 300 percent more iron in the water that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) says is safe,” adding that manganese in the water is also an issue.
Gillen noted that she has spoken to New York American Water concerning the water rates and said she can address the brown water problem as she met with officials from the company on March 13.
Pearl Bruger, a member of the Five Towns Civic Association, a group formed in opposition to development of the Woodmere Club, listed the issues ranging from increased traffic volume to the impact on the environment that the coming residential building could bring to the area. “Traffic is horrendous on Broadway, said Bruger, a Cedarhurst resident. “There is already no parking at the train stations.”
Saying that Councilmen Bruce Blakeman and Anthony D’Esposito are “leading the charge,” Gillen said the town is looking at the zoning, appealing the building moratorium decision that went against the town and waiting on the park district study to be completed.
When speaking on increasing the availability of information about the town she said: “This is your town, we work for you, you should be able to get this information.”