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Valley Stream trustee elections set for Sept. 15

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Village elections are scheduled for Sept. 15 this year. Originally, voting was scheduled to take place on March 18, but  was postponed as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. In 2020 two trustee seats are up for grabs. Challenger Anthony Bonelli, who ran for mayor in 2019, is vying against incumbents John Tufarelli and Deputy Mayor Sean Wright. Additionally Michael Morin is running as a write-in candidate. The race is at large, meaning the top vote getters will win the seats available.

Originally, voting was set to take place at the village’s standard 12 polling sites, but with uncertainty over the availability of school facilities, in early March those polling sites were moved to village facilities such as the Hendrickson Park pool complex and its various firehouses, reducing their number to six. With the rescheduled date, however, the number of polling sites have been further reduced to two: the pool complex and the Monica Village senior apartments.

In limiting the number of locations  to vote, Bonelli accused the village board at its Aug. 17 meeting of voter suppression. Mayor Ed Fare responded that he was encouraging residents to vote via mail-in ballots.

  As part of its coverage, the Herald asked questions focusing on issues vital to the village to see where the candidates stand on the issues.

 

The challengers

 

Herald: What are aspects and areas of Valley Stream as far as the village government is concerned that you most appreciate and/or are proud of, and where is there room for improvement?

 

Anthony Bonelli and Michael Morin: The village has a wonderful staff of employees. During my door-to-door travels, I repeatedly hear and agree with the wonderful compliments about our village employees, particularly the sanitation workers, and our very own courageous and dedicated volunteer firefighters. Otherwise, the room for improvement in Village Hall is practically limitless. The New York state comptroller rates our Village’s fiscal stress as the second worse of 551 villages in the state.  Moody’s municipal bond analysts have consistently downgraded this administration’s credit rating since they took office nearly 10 years ago. The success stories the United Community Party celebrates are entirely modest and like those of any other village, except those village governments manage to achieve them without crashing their communities into junk-bond status.

Meanwhile, our roads are in a desperate state of disrepair, and now the financial straits the United Community Party has brought about make it even more difficult to fund repairs for this glaring deficiency. I’m a lifelong Democrat but would be the most fiscally conservative member of the village board. I would be the most responsible steward of the taxpayers’ dollars in Village Hall. I would ensure your tax dollars are treated with the respect they deserve but have not received.

 

Herald: Last February Moody’s Investors Services downgraded the village’s bond rating to Ba1, citing years of operating deficits and placing it in the junk category. What do you think went wrong, and what are the ways in which the village could improve its financial standing?

 

Bonelli and Morin: Moody’s themselves cited several factors, such as years of structurally unbalanced budgets, in which actual expenses exceeded revenues, causing the village to spend reserve funds and/or raise taxes to cover shortfalls, draining the impressive reserve funds the previous Cahill administration had left us. There were, however, more fundamental issues that Moody’s did not address. In renovating the completely unnecessary second courthouse, we were told an additional $1 million would complete the job. In the end, it actually took an additional $4 million. Likewise, we were told an additional $1 million would complete the waste transfer station. In the end, it took nearly an additional $8 million. The current administration thinks it can close some of this debt by importing garbage from outside municipalities to process at the waste transfer station. I do not believe the residents of this village want fleets of garbage trucks navigating their streets to drop off out-of-town waste here.

I will fight for balanced budgeting by the village board, and insist upon solid research before embarking on capital projects like the courthouse and waste transfer station. We have to end the days of stumbling into capital projects half-cocked, only then to discover massive cost overruns that will have to be paid off by the taxpayers.

 

Herald: Development in the village has been a hot topic of discussion in recent years. What do you think is the appropriate kind of development for the neighborhood, and how would you attract that development?

 

Bonelli and Morin: Any development that is built within the village zoning code is appropriate development. That is the zoning code’s stated purpose: Ensuring appropriate development while preserving Valley Stream’s suburban character. Unfortunately, what we have been seeing in recent years is over-development requiring massive zoning variances gifted to developers and campaign contributors. I have watched numerous times as the village board and board of zoning appeals (appointed by the Village Board) ignore impassioned pleas by surrounding homeowners against proposed over-development (i.e., apartment complexes, storage facilities), only to see all of those pleas casually dismissed with a wave of the hand. Appropriate development does not steamroll the unanimous will of the community. Appropriate development does not treat homeowners as inconvenient impediments to the agenda of real estate developers. Appropriate developments are welcomed by the community. We can revitalize our downtown by expanding available parking for patrons, ending predatory parking enforcement, and easing up on the village’s burdensome business regulations. Put simply, Village Hall needs to be business-friendly to all businesses.

 

The incumbents

 

Herald: What are aspects and areas of Valley Stream as far as the village government is concerned that you most appreciate and/or are proud of, and where is there room for improvement?

 

Sean Wright: I am very proud of the job we have done maintaining services for our residents in Valley Stream. Our library, parks, pools, workforce, the brave members our Fire Department, auxiliary police, the Valley Stream Historical Society and all the community-minded people that come together to make Valley Stream the beautiful place it is, make me proud that I represent this village in my capacity as trustee. As one example, in the last nine years, we have paved over 30 miles of roads at a cost of about $1 million a mile. This is the kind of planning that results in steady, stable improvements to our Village overall.

 

Herald: Last February Moody’s Investors Services downgraded the village’s bond rating to Ba1, citing years of operating deficits and placing it in the junk category. What do you think went wrong, and what are ways in which the village can improve its financial standing?

 

Wright: Standard and Poor’s rates Valley Stream just one notch below its top score. This year we have reduced our debt, built a surplus, improved our comptroller’s “stress levels” and remained within the state’s tax cap without reducing services. Our fiscal health outlook is good. We also never stopped investing in our infrastructure where it matters most. When you own a home, you repair the roof to prevent more expensive damage later on. That’s what we have done with our equipment and facilities. Purchasing major items like new fire trucks and ambulances puts people first. The purchase of the courthouse at 195 Rockaway Ave. is an example of an investment in our village, and also sends a strong message that we are committed to the strength and vibrancy of our downtown business district. We greatly improved a blighted building and invested in our downtown’s growth and prosperity.

 

Herald: Development in the village has been a hot topic of discussion in recent years. What do you think is the appropriate kind of development for the neighborhood, and how would you attract that development?

 

Wright: Valley Stream has fewer rental units than our neighboring villages, at about 18 percent compared to Rockville Centre’s 32 percent and Lynbrook’s 28 percent. People want and need a vibrant downtown, walkability to transportation, restaurants and a thriving business community. We as a community should have honest discussions about this issue, learn from our neighboring communities and work together to achieve a good mix of development that is needed and wanted by our residents. 

 

Herald: What are aspects and areas of Valley Stream as far as the village government is concerned that you most appreciate and/or are proud of, and where is there room for improvement?

 

John Tufarelli: I take tremendous pride in the workers within our village government, not only because they work hard and do a great job, but especially because of the way they interact with the people. They are the face of the village, and they represent us so well. We have put a lot of time and energy into our parks, our pools, and our cultural and recreational programs. Valley Stream is clean and inviting, and there is truly something for everyone.

 

Herald: Last February Moody’s Investors Services downgraded the village’s bond rating to Ba1, citing years of operating deficits and placing it in the junk category. What do you think went wrong, and what are ways in which the village can improve its financial standing?

 

Tufarelli: The Moody’s downgrade was unfortunate in that it did not reflect the vast amount of infrastructure improvements that were made to the Village in recent years that tapped into our reserves. In actuality the Village did what was right for the residents and put the surplus that we had into services, and much needed products, such as garbage trucks and plows. We made a long-term investment to the community without burdening our residents with huge tax increases. We are in it for the long run.  Our transfer station alone will wind up saving the village hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars over its years of use. Our parks and pools, our 105 acres of green space, give our residents pleasure and these are key reasons why Money Magazine identified Valley Stream as the Best Place to Live in New York State.

 

Herald: Development in the village has been a hot topic of discussion in recent years. What do you think is the appropriate kind of development for the neighborhood, and how would you attract that development?

 

Tufarelli: No community should embark on any development projects without plenty of thoughtful research, many conversations with the residents and attention to what people want in their community. I believe there is a need for certain types of development. As a parent of a “twenty-something” who was born and raised in Valley Stream, I don’t want to see him forced to move out of the village because he can’t afford to live here.  We can collaborate to create the right types of housing for young adults and empty nesters as well.