Bruce Blakeman, a former Woodmere resident now living in Atlantic Beach, was named at a town meeting on Jan. 13 to fill the vacancy on the Hempstead town board, replacing James Darcy, who was appointed a Nassau County District Court judge.
Blakeman, 58, a Republican, ran for Congress last November, and lost to Democrat Kathleen Rice. He now returns to a position he held from 1993 to 1995. He will represent the town’s 3rd Councilmatic District, which includes Atlantic Beach, East Atlantic Beach, a portion of Cedarhurst and all of Inwood, Lawrence, Woodmere, Meadowmere Park, Valley Stream, South Valley Stream, West Hempstead, Malverne and Franklin Square.
Erin King Sweeney, the daughter of U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), was also appointed, to the 5th Councilmatic District seat.
“They bring a wealth of talent and genuine dedication to public service to their positions as council members,” Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray said. Sweeney succeeded Councilwoman Angie Cullen, who retired after 28 years.
First District Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby voted against the appointments, and said that while she did not object to the two individuals, she opposed the process, adding that there should have been a special election to fill the open seats. But, Blakeman said, “There is no mechanism for a special election as per state law. “The only possibility was to keep the seat vacant until next January, and that’s almost a year without a councilperson in my district. Obviously that’s an untenable situation. Councilwoman Goosby was very clear that she wasn’t opposed to me being a member of the town board. She was unhappy with the process.”
A South Shore resident for most of his life, Blakeman was born in Oceanside and grew up in Valley Stream. He is a graduate of Valley Stream Central High School.
An attorney who has held several elected and appointed positions — he was presiding officer of the County Legislature from 1996 to 1999 and commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey from 2001 to 2009 — Blakeman said that his primary goal was to help make the town a more attractive place for young people.
“We have world-class parks, beaches and retail centers — there are a lot of exciting things in the Town of Hempstead to attract young people,” he said, “and we have to create an atmosphere that is inviting and welcoming.”
Improving transportation hubs should help retain the younger population that commutes to New York City for work but lives in the town, he said. Blakeman also wants to focus on land use, and on finding ways to cut red tape to enable more businesses to open in the town.
He said he would like to see a coordinated effort among the federal, state, town and village governments to improve transportation, specifically state Route 878, the Nassau Expressway, and he would like to work with County Legislator Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), who has spearheaded existing efforts to do so.
“It has become a third-world highway — it floods frequently with the slightest bit of rain,” Blakeman said of Route 878, adding that he views repairing and renovating the road, portions of which run through Queens, as a homeland security issue, because it is the only evacuation route for many in the area. He has been a senior fellow of Long Island University’s Homeland Security Department for several years.
Blakeman also co-founded and has chaired the Hewlett House Council, a breast cancer learning resource center in Hewlett, and has been a volunteer basketball coach at Malverne High School, where he mentored the varsity players.
“He previously held my seat [in the Legislature], knows the district well, is energetic and smart,” Kopel said. “It’s a blessing to have him working on any issue of concern to the community.”
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