Freeport Village Trustee Carmen Piñeyro, 44, announced on Dec. 15 that she would challenge Mayor Robert Kennedy in next year’s village election.
Piñeyro is running under the Alliance For Freeport banner, alongside trustee hopefuls Donna Raphael, 54, and Dawn de la Llera, 44, as well as Tim Staines, 41, who is seeking the village judge’s position.
“I’m excited to run for mayor and modernize our village, along with my team,” Piñeyro said. “I grew up in Freeport. This is my home, and I want to make sure it prospers.”
“I’m honored to be running with this slate of candidates,” added Staines, an attorney with the firm Raymond and Staines.
Kennedy announced that he would seek another term earlier this month. The Herald covered the announcement, made outside Village Hall, in the story “Freeport mayor seeks third term,” which can be found at liherald.com/Freeport.
Piñeyro joined the village board of trustees, alongside Kennedy, in 2009, becoming the first Latina elected to the board. Before that, she had been the youngest member of the Freeport Board of Education, serving three terms, including one as president.
She said she has enjoyed working with Kennedy and her fellow trustees to ensure that property taxes re-mained flat for the past eight years, but she said she has become frustrated that the mayor has not brought improvements to Freeport behond the southern parts of the village.
“We’ve been able to do a lot on the Nautical Mile,” she said “but not much else.”
“We need to focus on replicating the success we’ve seen in south Freeport to the rest of the village,” added Raphael, who works in the nonprofit sector.
Piñeyro, Raphael and de la Llera said they would focus on promoting all of the village’s assets for residents to use. Whether it would be by creating transportation to the Recreation Center or pushing for parades and festivities to be held throughout Freeport, rather than solely on Merrick Road or the Nautical Mile, the Alliance For Freeport candidates said they want all residents to have access to all that Freeport has to offer.
De la Llera, an adult educator at the Freeport Learning Center who is the J.W. Dodd PTA president, said she believes much of Freeport has been overlooked. She also said the Recreation Center has fallen out of use by much of the community.
As a trustee, she said her focus would be on revitalizing the Recreation Center and bringing in programs that the community could enjoy, as well as creating a bus route from the schools to the center for students to take part in after-school activities.
Both de la Llera and Piñeyro also agreed that the village’s communication methods needed to be modernized.
De la Llera said that, unlike the school district’s website, the village’s site has relatively few bilingual messages, even though about a third of village residents speak and read Spanish.
She also complained about the lack of resources and information available on the village’s website, with board meeting minutes uploaded months later and a lack of digital archives for public board meetings.
“There’s no way to find out what’s going on at Village Hall unless you go down there and ask for the documents each time,” de la Llera said. “And some residents lack the time or means to do that.”
Piñeyro said the village’s outdated communication methods might be one of the reasons why it was hit so hard by the coronavirus. She said the village could not reach enough residents to make them aware of the dangers of the virus and what they could do to stop the spread.
Piñeyro said she believes the ongoing battle with the pandemic would be the real mark of leadership in the village, and she wants to focus on helping the local business community that has suffered because of the shutdown and capacity restrictions. To that end, Piñeyro and her running mates would analyze the community’s needs and direct them to resources to aid them.
Ideally, they would create an Office for Small Business Owners within the village that would serve as a one-stop shop for local businesses to learn about everything they need to operate in the village. Piñeyro said she hoped it would also streamline the application process for new and existing businesses.
Along with helping the village recover from the Covid-19 crisis, Piñeyro said she hoped to attract younger residents to remain and move into Freeport by creating more workforce housing units in the village. The units would allow younger residents who typically earn less to afford living in Nassau County, which continues to be among the most expensive counties in the nation.
“If we have housing available for younger workers, we can bring in more shoppers and employees to all the businesses in our village,” Piñeyro said.
The village election will take place March 16.