Village general election season is well underway. Parties and their candidates are in the throes of winning the support of voters and getting their volunteers out to put their message before village residents as they get ready to head to the polls March 21 to cast their vote for a mayor, two trustees, and a village justice.
Eyeing to reclaim his seat at Village Hall is incumbent Mayor Edwin Fare on the United Community Party ticket, seeking a fourth term. Joining him on the ticket is Trustee Dermond Thomas — seeking a fourth term of his own — as well as Justice Melanie Jenkins, seeking election to her first full term after the resignation of Virginia Clavin-Higgins last year.
United Community also welcomed a fresh-faced, political newcomer — Kevin Waszak, who heads the village’s beautification committee. He replaces Trustee Vincent Grasso on the party ticket, who decided last month he wouldn’t seek another term.
As in past election years, United Community — a loose coalition of Democrats and Republicans — are rallying around a tried-and-true campaign theme: Keeping basic quality-of-life issues front and center, while shunning extreme partisan agendas from influencing the role of village government.
“There are not Republican potholes, Democratic street lights, conservative snow plows, liberal sanitation pickups,” Fare told supporters during his campaign launch. “These are village issues.”
Under Fare’s leadership, village officials have made a point of applying to federal and state grant-based programs aimed at funding large-scale projects such as a walking path at Cahill Park and the Mill Pond project — many of which remain under construction. Strides have been taken to secure an additional affordable senior housing facility known as The Alder.
And new programs are soon to be launched, like standardizing and improving commercial signage on Rockaway to facelift a still ailing downtown business district.
But United Community’s roughly decade-long dominance hasn’t scared off challengers. Two more localized parties have sprung up, pushing their own vision ahead for Valley Stream while seeking to undermine the incumbent party’s claim to its mainstream, middle-of-the-road, community-first message.
Their playbook? Take straight aim at the village’s financial health and spending history, its approach to developing new apartment projects, and the perceived hand of cronyism over the appointment of village employees.
“There’s some housecleaning to be done,” said mayoral candidate Cristina Arroyo, running under her standalone Good Trouble Party. “We need to audit our administration so we can make informed decisions on where to allocate our hard-earned tax dollars — this also includes addressing rampant nepotism, cronyism, and lack of expertise, transparency and accountability.”
On the dicey topic of affordable housing, Arroyo — a former editor for a sister publication of the Valley Stream Herald — also seized on frustrations harbored by neighbors about seeing apartment complex projects built within close proximity of single-home neighborhoods.
A home feels less like one when you have three floors of neighbors looking into your backyard,” Arroyo said. “Renters not only need a place near transit-friendly areas, but also affordable rates. Our current administration has proven itself inadequate, prioritizing developers over residents.”
Similarly, mayoral candidate Anthony Bonelli is following an unsuccessful bid in 2019 by joining forces with his Achieve Party trustee candidates Amil Virani and Nicolas Nogueira, as well as village justice candidate Charles Lawson.
Bonelli is branding his party as a corrective to years of alleged fiscal mismanagement that led to the village’s downgraded credit rating and susceptible fiscal stress status as cited by the state comptroller’s office.
Pruning away extraneous village personnel and part-time workers, and closing down the second village courthouse on Rockaway Avenue, are some of the high-priority cost-cutting measures pitched by the party.
“Through competency and integrity, I know I can vastly improve and enhance the services of Valley Stream, and at the same time make it far more affordable and safer to live here in our village,” Bonelli said.
Fare downplayed his opponents, but no less sought to make the case for United Community’s re-election.
“We have competition, and we take nothing for granted,” the mayor said. “We have a slate of fantastic, well-qualified candidates. Our opposition cannot say the same.
“We are headed in the right direction with proven leadership that includes all parties, a true coalition approach to government.”
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