A Vote for School and Community
We are judged, not only by the people we associate with, but by the places we’ve come from and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. The reputation of the West Hempstead public schools both precedes us, and will in the years ahead, define us as individuals and as a community.
We are fortunate, as a school district, to have enjoyed a reputation second to none. West Hempstead, under the leadership of Dr. Carol Eisenberg, our District Superintendent, has grown and flourished into a school district that is held in high esteem by educators, by college admissions officers, and by parents looking to raise their kids in a community with first class schools.
A community’s reputation, and its ability to thrive, is dependent upon the achievements and accomplishments of its public schools. Without the support of residents, where school budgets fail and school districts flounder, community disintegrates. Without community, we have nothing.
Many of you, and certainly, your parents, will be eligible to vote. I encourage you, and for you to urge others, to vote on Tuesday, May 15th, and to seriously consider the impact of your vote, not only on current students and future generations of West Hempstead students, but upon the future of community itself.
The 2.74% Solution
When last we opined about the school budget in the spring, students, faculty, administrators and parents alike wondered whether our district would have a budget in place this fall, or face the school year laboring under the yoke of austerity.
We are pleased to report, as surely most of you already know, that West Hempstead’s school budget passed on the second attempt – with flying colors – and our schools and their students will enjoy and benefit from a full complement of academic programs and extracurricular activities. But that’s just the beginning of the story.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Carol Eisenberg, recently reported to the West Hempstead community that, after State Aid from Albany had been finalized, the actual increase in the school property tax would not be 7%, 4.8%, or any of the figures bantered about during the budget vote storm, but rather, a mere 2.74%. That’s considerably lower than expected, not to mention well below the figure voted on and approved by district residents.
Kudos to the administration, Board of Education, and to all of those in our community who supported quality education in West Hempstead. Good news aside, this is no time to rest on either laurels or upon the good fortunes bestowed by the State Legislature. While it may only be October, the budget debate and the critical budget vote will be upon us in all too short order. That’s why we have to shout the praises of West Hempstead ‘s public schools from the roof tops – or at least from open windows in our own houses.
The accomplishments of our students, be they in the classroom or on the playing field, through scholastic competition or community-based projects, must be a part of the public domain and the public debate. We, as parents, through our words, and our children, through their deeds, must demonstrate that come next May, when the 2007-08 proposed budget is put to the test, our system of public education will have earned the confidence of every resident, laying to rest any uncertainty among either naysayers or doubting Thomases as to the worthiness of this school district’s initiatives.
Talk up our public schools. Reinforce the momentum toward excellence. Strive to keep West Hempstead first!
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Our Children, Our Community, Our Future
Long Islanders have always prided themselves on having the best schools, being the best educated, and showing unbridled support for the education and intellectual advancement of their children.
With the defeat of the budget on May 16th, our public schools face the prospect of austerity, with drastic cuts to critical programs, athletics, and after-school activities. Private and parochial schools, which receive a substantial influx of monies from the school district’s budget, would likewise suffer. And the public at large, from the kids on the soccer field to the community groups which utilize the district’s facilities, will face the coming school year without access.
Those “in the know” understand and appreciate that the approval of the school district’s budget serves to benefit the children in attendance at private schools as well as those in the public schools, as it serves to sustain and uplift the community as a whole.
The successful course of any community – of any society – corresponds directly to the success of it’s public institutions. Foremost in this success story are our public schools. Where we fail to nurture public education, and to foster the public good, we fail to advance either as a community or as a society.
Those who vote “no” on school budgets, whatever their persuasion, rationale, or beliefs, hurt all of the children, their own included, and cause immeasurable harm, both real and perceived, to our community.
Voting “no” on school budgets, from here to eternity, will not lower our property tax bills by any appreciable sum. It is only in voting “no” to the malaise of the status quo in Albany, and by demanding equitable apportionment of State Aid, a fair return to Long Island of our tax dollars, and the replacement of the onerous and regressive school property tax, that we will find true property tax relief.
I encourage every West Hempsteader eligible to vote, the stakeholders of our community, to come out to the Middle School gymnasium on Tuesday, June 20th (6:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.), and to vote “YES” on the school budget.
Seth D. Bykofsky
Seth Bykofsky is a former President of the West Hempstead Civic Association
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We Are Your Children
We are your children, West Hempstead.
The students in the classroom, gaining the knowledge today so we can lead our community tomorrow; the participants in after-school athletics, strengthening both body and spirit; the players upon the stage, performing in the dramatic arts, making beautiful music, showcasing our many talents that our schools have encouraged and cultivated.
We are your children, West Hempstead.
The young scholars whose experiments and prose take top honors at science fairs and national competitions; the gleeful and bright-eyed, who shine in NYSSMA and Quiz Bowl; the hopeful and enthusiastic, who share ideas and ideals through Model Congress; those who aspire to do great things, around the world, and right here at home.
We are your children, West Hempstead.
Those who regularly go above and beyond to make our community a better place to live and raise families; the helping hand of the Key Club volunteer; the warm smile in a Senior to Senior forum; the civic-minded, who keep pace with graffiti and trash in our parks, and keep peace through student mentoring and intervention programs.
We are your children, West Hempstead. We are the future of this wonderful community. Nurture us. Support us. Give us every possible advantage, so that we – and this community along with us – may succeed.
Please vote “YES” on the re-vote of the school budget, Tuesday, June 20th.
Melissa J. Bykofsky
Class of 2007
West Hempstead High School
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For Our Alma Mater
As a proud graduate of the West Hempstead public schools, I was deeply saddened to learn that the budget went down to defeat on May 16th. During my years in the West Hempstead schools – from George Washington elementary through the High School – I was fortunate never to have experienced austerity.
My classmates and I benefited from a full complement of academic programs taught by caring and talented teachers, and enjoyed extracurricular activities ranging from sports to music to community service clubs.
Now, entering my Senior year at Binghamton University, I realize just how important a top-notch education is, and I know that our West Hempstead schools – and, in particular, the High School – left me well prepared to face the challenges and rigors not only of college, but of life beyond.
I shudder to think what the kids in our schools today would face should the school district have to fall back to a contingency budget. The cuts would be painful – for the students as well as the community – and the ill-effects of austerity, long-lasting.
I would hope that the residents of our town give West Hempstead’s children the same opportunities as were afforded to me by this community. Certainly, they deserve no less.
Whether you are a parent of a school-age child, a senior, a member of a local sports club or community organization, a concerned citizen, or a West Hempstead alum like myself, I urge you to come out to the Middle School on Tuesday, June 20th, and vote “YES” for our school budget. Thank you!
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WH Library Response to Recent Criticism of the Library Board and Trustee’s Re-Election
On 6/3/03, West Hempstead voted to construct a new Library building at a cost of $9.975 million dollars. This amount was to cover the purchase of property and the erection of the building. The plans as presented to the public called for a 3 level building containing a basement to house a large community room area, a main floor for the major Library functions, and a mezzanine to house additional book stacks and some other service areas and to provide for possible above ground expansion if needed in later years. The library board advised the public that 2 possible alternates in the basement, not included in the cost, would be considered if there be enough money in the bond after bids were received. Only after the bids came in would we know the actual cost of construction. The $9.975 million was a prudent estimate at that point in time, of what costs would be, and was arrived at in deep consultation with our architect and experts in the construction field. As in all construction work, it contained a prudently provided for contingency fund for normal cost rises over the period of construction. Based on the size of this project, the estimate of the Library’s attorney, architect and other experienced construction people was that it would take approximately 14 months (late summer of 2004) to negotiate with the property owners to arrive at a settlement price and then to obtain bids, at which time we would know what the project’s actual cost would be. The construction should have been completed sometime in the spring of 2006.
The Library wisely had hired an experienced, prominent, and highly qualified eminent domain attorney familiar with the eminent domain law and its application in Nassau County projects should it be necessary to obtain the property site if negotiations with the owners failed.
While the Library Board was negotiating with the gas station owner, the School Board, without the knowledge of the Library, unilaterally terminated the library’s chosen eminent domain lawyer. The School Board, without informing the library trustees, hired a replacement law firm whose specialty is in litigation, health care and corporate law – not eminent domain law – to be the library’s sole legal counsel for the procurement of the properties. Not only were this new firm’s hourly fees higher than those of the library’s chosen lawyer, the new firm’s early bills contained enormous time charges for this new firm to review the files, and to undertake research into the law of eminent domain. In effect, the library was forced to pay twice for the same work or for work the first lawyer would never have charged, and to support the new firm’s learning curve. As a direct result, instead of approximately 14 months to finalize the deals, it has taken nearly double the time, at a cost of more than three times the expected fee from the library’s chosen lawyer, to come to an agreed price so that no additional land acquisition costs will accrue.
This unnecessary delay of five fiscal quarters has added nearly $950,000 to the cost of the project. To be sure, this is a significant amount, but please remember the reasons are related to the effect of the five-quarter delay, and not to the original amount of the of the library’s original, prudent estimate of what the cost of the project would be.
Of the $950,000, $450,000 was due to the increase in Real Estate values. The Library Board, when setting the acquisition cost sought in the Bond issue, used an authoritative amount based on a licensed appraisal report of the Real Estate in question. To the contrary, the strip mall owners never obtained an appraisal of their property. Real Estate values increased during the delay period at the highest rate in recent history. Further, there was a considerable delay in obtaining court approval for tenant removal. In fact, the Library President himself pleaded with the Judge, in writing, to issue his decision, in order to save taxpayer money by allowing construction to commence in February 2006.
The remainder of the $950,000 is attributable to (1) the increase due to higher and more costly fees from the new legal firm, (2) the necessity to cover fees for the Architect and Construction Management firms for the extended five months, and, (3) finally, the escalation in construction costs during the delay period. Construction costs during that period rose 9.5%, instead of the historical average of 4%, as established in construction industry and government reports.
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Re-Elect Marvin Gensler to the WH Library Board
Tuesday, May 16th, is not only the day of the School Budget vote (11 AM to 9 PM in the Middle School gymnasium) — a significant event in the life of our community in which I encourage every resident of voting age to participate — it is also the day West Hempsteaders will go to the polls to elect Trustees of the Board of Education and Library Board.
The only contested election is that of Library Trustee, where veteran Board member, Marvin Gensler, finds himself in an emotionally charged race against challenger, Polly Trocchia. Amidst the allegations and the finger pointing, voters will have to decide who would be best suited to take West Hempstead’s new public library from drawing board to reality. To me, the decision is as clear as it is pragmatic – Marvin Gensler has earned our votes!
If not for Marvin Gensler, there would be no new library. In fact, the idea of a new library would never have germinated if not for Marvin’s vision and, despite general malaise from the community and sometimes vigorous and persistent opposition (including that of a certain member of the Board of Education who shares a surname with Marvin’s opponent), his steadfast determination paved the way to what will soon be a hallmark of the 21st century for our West Hempstead.
I am voting to keep Marvin Gensler on the Library Board, and I would urge every West Hempsteader who feels strongly about our children and our library to do likewise!
Seth D. Bykofsky
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West Hempstead Civic Celebrates 10th Anniversary: First And Ten. Goal To Go.
A decade. Ten years. A blip on humanity’s timeline. Irrelevant in the scheme of our ever-expanding universe. A momentous occasion, nonetheless, in the life of a civic association. Yes, it was sometime in the waning days of the 20th Century – 1995 to be exact – that a dedicated band of West Hempsteaders gathered at the local Legion Hall to revive that spirit of community. And revive that spirit they did! [For those who still have the Inaugural Edition of News & Views, published in the Fall of 1995, hold onto it. Surely, it will become a collectible! J]
Enthusiastic and full of energy (that “dazed quarterback who took one hit too many” look not yet engrained on their faces), community activists put themselves in the ballgame and took to the field – advocating, educating, mobilizing the masses of this “small town” with that “big heart,” gaining valuable yardage.
The issues seemed somehow simpler back then, with solutions easier to define, if not to achieve. After-hours clubs on the Turnpike; mega-gas stations on the Boulevard; a car wash on the Avenue. The battle lines – as well as the enemy – were clear. The mission certain. The outcome, in terms of our inevitable triumph, never in doubt.
The home team rallied – around their civic association and their community – realizing that the potential for decline, if not ruin, was knocking at the back door. Apathy and indifference gave way to involvement and participation. We were energized. We were emboldened. We were, without question, a community on the move toward the end zone.
From the early advances and decisive victories grew a movement devoted to (some would say fanatical about) generating a new vision for our community – a vision founded upon the ideal that West Hempstead deserved not only its place in the sun, but moreover, its name on the map. From carnivals to street fairs to the glorious Holiday At Hall’s, our town became a focal point for others to emulate. From Town Board to Zoning Board to the legislative chambers in Albany, our civic association became a voice recognized and a force to be reckoned with.
Even when the results did not quite meet expectations [read as in the proposal to rename West Hempstead or the effort to have the Echo Park Pool Complex declared a Special Park District], what some deemed as failures – in that strange twist of fate we call hindsight (what others call spin) – were actually well-planned strategic feats. In seeking to make Echo Park our own, we brought attention to the untenable overcrowding, the frequent assaults upon person and property, the glaring deficiencies in maintenance, and the “turn the other cheek” approach to folks from beyond the Town of Hempstead who flagrantly used the facility at the expense of Town residents. The outcome of that battle (which raised eyebrows even within our own community) – a revamped and well-maintained facility; a more secure pool and park; an adherence to a policy that restricts park use to the Town of Hempstead residents whose taxes pay for it.
With respect to renaming West Hempstead – as divisive an issue as this town has had before it – maybe it wasn’t such a great idea or worth the personal vitriol, or perhaps we should have come up with a more palatable name. I like to think that, as Vince Lombardi once said, “We didn’t lose the game. We simply ran out of time.” Still, there was a silver lining, if not a rainbow, on the tail of that most dark cloud. Some method as salve to the madness. A concerted endeavor in that ongoing struggle to bring a unique identity to our town and to finally put West Hempstead on the map, did just that. More that this, for better or for worse, we engaged folks in our hamlet – young, old, newcomers and oldtimers, most of whom had rarely if ever played a part in the life of our town – in a great debate, and involved our neighbors in that most noble of causes – community. And, whether for or against, we came out not only to watch the game, but to play. We voted – in numbers greater than we’ve seen, either before or since. Now that, my friends, is what I call an accomplishment!
Today, as we forge ahead into this new century – a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and eyes still keenly fixed on both ball and goal post – the challenges we face as a community may be more complex than they were a decade ago, but they are certainly no less compelling. Property taxes picking our pockets and holding hostage the next generation of Long Islanders. Illegal rental apartments consuming vital and limited resources, slowly obliterating what is left of suburbia. A housing market out of reach to our children, our parents and ourselves. School budgets burgeoning as confidence in academic acumen falters. The unrelenting decline of “downtown.” And does it really take a village?
The enemies of today’s community are more subtle and decidedly more entrenched than those that stormed in from the sidelines a decade ago. They are no longer easily discernable on the field of play or readily identifiable as the intruders knocking at our back door. Now, they lurk in the shadows, threatening our very homes and shaking the foundation of our quality of life, draining our wallets of every last dollar, portending, if they have their way, the ultimate demise of community as we know it. We ponder, as we did at the rebirth of civic pride in 1995, whether West Hempstead’s best days are behind her. We again stand at the crossroads, wondering which path to take.
If I sound disillusioned, rest assured, I am not. We are building that new library to take us well into the 21st Century, serving as the cornerstone of a rejuvenated “Main Street.” We are closing the Courtesy and redeveloping our community’s eastern gateway. We are revitalizing Hall’s Pond Park. We are keeping the LIRR’s West Hempstead line open and running. We have leveled the playing field with State, County and Town government. We are taking back our town from the ravages of neglect and impassiveness. Make no mistake, from Music In The Park to Operation Clean Sweep, we are rekindling that spirit of community. Our Community Pride Awards, recognizing community spirit in the business sector, are helping to reshape local enterprise, while our Community Service Awards, presented to scholar-activists, help to shape young minds and develop future leaders. Relentless in our pursuit to restore suburban quality of life, we are continually recasting the American Dream.
Whether less traveled or well worn, either path taken – or both – will suit us well, as long as we continue to move forward toward the goal of a better, brighter day for our community. The first ten are behind us. The clock continues to tick away. And still, presuming we refuse to give up either ball or ground and continue to stay engaged – motivated to act upon the grand and the mundane, nurturing our community’s dreams, building upon that vision of a revitalized and vibrant West Hempstead – we can remain confident that, indeed, West Hempstead’s best days are yet to come!
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“Nails in the Coffin”, Scott Jablow, President, Cathedral Gardens Civic Association
December 23rd was a very important day for New York State, Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead. This was the day that our elected officials chose to hold an important press conference to introduce a new law which took effect this past August. Through hard work and bipartisan cooperation, the new “Nail and Mail” law was presented to the general public and the news media. The “Nail and Mail” law closes a large loophole that absentee landlords used to evade the personal service of summonses issued to them by the building inspectors for converting their homes for illegal rentals. Special thanks to State Senator Dean Skelos and State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg for sponsoring this ground-breaking legislation. These State Officials heard the cries of the public for far too many years and acted. In the Town of Hempstead, we owe a special thanks to Councilmen Ed Ambrosino and Jim Darcy for putting the new law into effect so quickly in our Town.
Some people choose an urban way of life. In choosing to live on Long Island, most prefer a suburban way of life. Illegal housing is growing in epic proportions and is eroding the suburbia of Long Island, turning the suburbs into urban areas such as New York City. If we wanted to live in an urban community, we’d move into an urban city.
Those absentee landlords who buy one family houses and illegally convert them into multiple family dwellings are stealing from our neighborhoods and helping to destroy our communities. Even those “nice elderly” neighbors down the block who “had” to convert their basement into an illegal apartment are stealing from our neighborhood. They’re stealing our suburban lifestyle. They’re stealing our community. They’re stealing our neighborhood services by overburdening our schools, sanitation, utility, fire and police services. Let’s not forget that they’re even stealing the parking spaces in front of our homes. The next-door neighbor who closes his or her eyes to the illegal rental neighbor is being victimized without even realizing it. Everyone in Nassau County is up in arms about the increased property and school tax that we are forced to pay; it’s a proven fact that illegal rentals are partly to blame, on several levels, for these higher taxes. By adding the children that live in these illegal rentals to our schools we all pay for their education, not the children’s parents. If some of those children are considered “special needs,” we all pay that much more. A few years ago, a study done in the community of Elmont showed that residents paid more than one million dollars in extra taxes per year to educate these children from illegal rentals. While it’s our school district’s responsibility to see that “no child is left behind,” it would be nice to see that every child’s parents pay their fair share of the school taxes, which they don’t.
It has recently been proven that those people who neighbor a house with illegal rentals suffer by paying higher property taxes when the offending house is sold, most times as “investment property.” In most instances, those houses sell for many thousands of dollars more than the normal rate because of the potential income for the new owner. When the sale data is forwarded to the Nassau County Tax Assessor, they don’t realize why the house sold for so much more than the going rate; they just see the dollar amount. When that sold house is used as a comparable listing to formulate the taxes of surrounding homes, the County believes that all of those houses in the area must be selling for that amount and adjusts everyone else’s rate accordingly. This can cause your taxable amount to rise needlessly because of your selfish neighbor.
So the next time you look down your block and see those curb parking spaces start to disappear just remember, those cars may belong to someone living in an illegal basement apartment or rooming house, right next door. It’s time to take off the blinders and start doing something about it. Please don’t just stand by complaining about the problem but doing nothing to help solve it.
If you suspect that one of your neighbors is victimizing you and our community, call your Town Councilman at 489-5000 or one of the civic associations in your neighborhood. All calls are confidential.
In closing, I would like to say: Landlords beware! Your neighbors are watching and the Town of Hempstead is finally reacting to our cries for help.
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Garbage Cans Littering Our Streets
Am I the only person upset about the condition of our streets every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday when the Sanitation Dept. picks up our garbage cans FROM OUR CURBS and throws them all over our streets…….some cans several feet from the curb???!!!! God forbid it be a windy day – have you ever had to maneuver your car around the cans???
Over the past couple of years I have tried almost everything I can think of to get our “Sanitation Engineers” to place the cans back on our curbs………I haven’t asked for back door service like other communities get – just place the darn cans on the curbs!!!!
I have called the Town of Hempstead who have always referred me back to the Commissioner of Sanitation. I have written them letters, made phone calls,etc. My most recent attempt was a letter with pictures attached of the cans strewn all over our streets. I received a visit from someone from the Commissioner’s Office who listened to my complaint and said they would “see what they could do”. So for the next week or two, MY garbage cans were placed on MY DRIVEWAY!!!!! Infuriating………..while all my neighbors cans were all over the street, MY cans were in my driveway!!!!
Last year I saw a young boy almost get hit by a can while he was riding his bike on the sidewalk. A car came around the corner, hit the garbage can in the street and it went flying…..narrowly missing the young boy!
DOES SOMETHING AWFUL HAVE TO HAPPEN IN ORDER TO HAVE OUR GARBAGE CANS PLACED BACK ON OUR CURBS?????? How can we take PRIDE in our community and allow this to go on………who has pride in a community littered with garbage cans????!!!! I really don’t know who else to contact or talk to about this. If the Civic Association can’t do anything to help, I don’t know where else to turn except to, perhaps, send some pictures to the media (who knows, maybe someone will care).
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Nowhere But Up
With our current system of taxation, everyone can clearly see that our taxes are going nowhere but up. Our elected officials are well aware, but no one seems ready to make any change. When you compare New York City property taxes to Nassau’s, wow, what a difference! Why is that?
For one reason, as much as 60% of the total tax we pay goes to our schools. Is the education in our schools that much better then in the New York City school system? I think most would argue that point. Still, the fact remains, that the mere mention of “schools” brings most to their knees, offering up millions of tax dollars for the sake of our children. This of course is understandable. Our children should come first. We try to give them the best education available. But allow me to point out that once done, can they afford to live here? Our children are our future. But if they can’t afford to live here, where does this leave us?
Change MUST be made! Under the current system, Nassau County has 57 independent school districts. That’s 57 different administrations we support. Very expensive, to say the least. In comparison, New York’s schools have ONE administration. After school sports ARE NOT associated through their schools, but done on an independent, community based, or privately financed bases. All this greatly reduces the overall expense to the tax payers. Can Nassau make a similar switch? I’m not even going to try to answer that one. Just imagine for a moment the impact that would have. Some order of change in the system MUST take place, before we say good-bye to our future. If we all continue to shy away from this issue, I assure you, this will not correct itself.
Every election year, the same ads appear for the Town of Hempstead, “Doing it Right,” anyone recall? The Town of Hempstead boasts of a large budget surplus. Can anyone imagine that in this day and age “why” this is? That’s an easy one, double taxation! For instance, the property you own ends at the sidewalk line. The sidewalk, grass strip and curb are the property of the town. Through our tax dollars, we pay for care and maintenance. Yet should something be in need of repair, like a broken sidewalk or a tree that needs to be removed from the grass strip, who pays? YOU DO! When I asked town officials “why” this is, they without hesitation told me “that’s the way it’s always been.” And what’s worse, is that several times I have brought this to the attention of all you tax payers, and you know what? NO ONE CARED.
Perhaps we deserve to be where we are. How many times does one have to be hit in the head, before they realize it hurts?
West Hempstead Civic Association
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On The Election of Trustees to Our School Board
To Residents of the West Hempstead School District,
I have been listening to issues regarding our schools for some time. I have come to realize that if we were able to offer a chance for newer voices to come forward and run for the School Board, some of the issues would be dealt with in a more timely and appropriate manner. To that end, I believe that changing the way our School Board is elected will result in positive changes for our community.
Please visit http://hometown.aol.com/sal964/myhomepage/index.html for more details on this issue, and to read the proposition which I hope will be put before the voters of West Hempstead.
Dr. Salvatore Lombardo
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The Future of The Courtesy: Assisted Living or Affordable Housing?
Assisted Living facilities. The Bristol. Sterling Glen. Sunrise. The Mayfair. You name ‘em, we’ve got ‘em. Seems every corner you turn on Long Island you’ll find one – or two, or three. They’ve become all the rage, and a boon for owners and developers of such facilities. Now don’t misunderstand. There is – or was – a real need for Assisted Living facilities in a region which, until a few years back, offered no refuge to seniors who could no longer live independently. Today, however, availability often surpasses need, and while housing opportunities abound for those tethered to oxygen tanks and the memory impaired, what becomes of our vibrant seniors whose independence goes beyond the Life Alert button? And what of the rest of Long Island’s housing deprived? Where do they go?
With their proliferation, you could venture a guess that there are probably as many, if not more, Assisted Living facility units on Long Island than there are hotel rooms. Certainly, there are many more such units on the market than there are affordable housing units – housing not only for our seniors who need no assistance, but also for our college grads and our young workforce, the backbone of Long Island’s economy. The only sanctuary for many seniors – overburdened by escalating property taxes – is to sell their homes and leave the State. For Generation Next, the options, given sheer economics, are even more limited – move back in with mom and dad for the duration, or rent a cramped, substandard, and, more often than not, illegal apartment.
That the lack of affordable housing on our Island has reached the critical stage is a given. The proliferation of illegal accessory apartments, including those dangerous converted basements, is evidence of an extreme housing shortage. With the housing market out of reach to most – including many homeowners who, given the artificially inflated prices, could not afford to buy the very homes they live in – the “need” shifts from building Assisted Living units to creating affordable housing units for the enabled senior, for the upwardly mobile college grad, and for the very workforce – from our teachers to our firefighters to the folks who work tirelessly to keep our Island ticking.
Here in West Hempstead, the confluence of a plan, a place and a process conducive to the affordable housing we so desperately need takes shape at the site of the soon-to-be former Courtesy Hotel, as well as the adjoining, equally neglected parcels. That’s the place. The plan, as expressed through Town Councilman Ed Ambrosino, envisions a mix of affordable senior and workforce housing interspersed with recreational green space and a complement of retail business. The process, looking past the eventual condemnation and closure of the Courtesy, is to agree on the highest and best possible use for this and bordering parcels.
To be certain, there are those among us who scoff at the very concept of affordable housing, preoccupied with a 60s vision of housing projects and disillusioned with the promise of affordable housing which, in realty, proved to be nothing more than the creation of ghettoes. Reasonable concerns, given a long history of government intervention gone bad.
Still, this is not the vision – either of our Town Supervisor, Kate Murray, Councilman Ambrosino, or, quite frankly, those of us who have toiled so hard for so long not only to close down the infamous Courtesy, but moreover, to replace the blight with that which will benefit the entire West Hempstead community.
Assisted Living is fine, where it is needed and as far as it goes. Truth is, it is not a critical need in our community, and, in addressing the housing crunch, it does not go far enough. The questions we must ask ourselves in charting the course for the Courtesy and environs are quite basic: Where will our parents, who can no longer bear the burden of home ownership, live? Where will our children, out of college and working their way up the financial ladder, call home? What will become of our economy where those who service and provide essentials of daily life can no longer afford to reside on Long Island?
And speaking of the economy, consider the vast difference between Assisted Living and affordable housing in terms of what it would mean to local businesses. The self-contained Assisted Living facility adds little to – and takes nothing from – the local economy. Those essentially confined to Assisted Living have all their needs taken care of. As for the visitors who come and go, that’s just it – they come and go, without appreciable impact on the local economy.
On the other hand, affordable housing for seniors, college grads and workforce provides the very impetus we need to breathe new life into our business districts. Residents become an integral part of their community, frequenting the shops, buying local goods and pumping cash into the mom and pop stores along the Avenues and Boulevards. The influx of the unconfined, impulsively mobile, can mean only one thing for the local economy – growth. And with that growth, a rebirth and stabilization of our “downtown,” with “Main Streets” alive with pedestrian traffic.
The direction we must take to assure a community that flourishes well into this century is clear. The plan, the place and the process are all viable and effective. The need must now dictate the result, which result, in the long run, benefits not only our seniors, but our children, our neighbors and ourselves. Of course, we could simply keep the Courtesy Hotel as is, foregoing the future for this part of our town, resigned to live with the blight, the crime, the failure of a vision that emboldens the future of community!
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Sharon Hill Koller
Sharon Koller, a charter member of the West Hempstead Civic Association, and one of the organization’s founding Executive Board members, passed away this summer after a valiant and prolonged battle against cancer.
Sharon was no stranger to the battlefield, and this was particularly so as she demonstrated – day in and day out – her passion for our community. In the early years, as the WHCA grappled with putting together a first-class newsletter, Sharon walked the Turnpike and the Avenue, visiting nearly every business in town, cultivating relationships, and never taking “no” for an answer when it came to buying advertising space.
A frequent contributor to News & Views, Sharon wrote eloquently not only on issues of the day, but also on West Hempstead’s illustrious past. From giving us the history of Hall’s Pond Park – during which she fervently disavowed having been personally responsible for filling the pond with water back in the 1800s – to tales of a buried train (said to lie beneath the site of The Point, now home to McDonald’s on the Avenue), Sharon gave warm, poignant and memorable portrayals of the best our town had – an has – to offer.
Feisty and strong-willed, Sharon, whose family-tree was proudly shared by some of the pioneers of our community, never backed down, rarely stood silent, and was often the first to enthusiastically support the progressive and forcefully oppose the oppressive. Sharon picked her fights carefully, and dug in for the duration. A true and unfaltering patron of community has been taken from us.
To honor the memory of Sharon Hill Koller, the West Hempstead Civic Association will buy a brick to be place at the new library, same to serve as a permanent memorial to a lifetime of service to our community.
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Legislator Muscarella Approves Environmental Referendum for November Ballot
Nassau CountyLegislator Vincent T. Muscarella (R-West Hempstead) sponsored and approved a $50 million referendum aimed at saving the last remaining open spaces and preservingNassau County’s parklands. The unanimousapproval by the Legislature means that the referendum will be placed on theballot for consideration during the November 2ndelections. “We have expanded to all corners of NassauCounty. This referendum will allow theCounty to provide a buffer against the suburban sprawl, maintain the purity ofour groundwater, and protect environmentally sensitive areas for futuregenerations,” said Legislator Muscarella.
The key component of the law would allow the County to purchase development rights to farmland and horse farms. Only five farms remain in Nassau County. Development rights would ensure that these farms remain for generations to come without the County exercising any maintenance costs.
A portion of the $50 million bond will be used for acquisition and improvement of the Nassau County parks system. Purchases of available land may be made to increase the size of parkland for both active and passive purposes. County facilities with playgrounds, athletic fields, outdoor concert sites, and equestrian capabilities may all benefit from the proposed referendum. Improvements to Nassau’s recreational, historical, and museum facilities may also be made with portions of the bonds; however, routine maintenance to parks will not be covered under the agreement.
In addition to preserving County parkland, a portion of the funds generated will be used on clean water projects designed to protect Nassau’s groundwater. Projects that construct or improve sediment collection basins, storm drain catch basins, and end–of-pipe treatment units will all be considered by the County if the referendum passes. Monies raised through the referendum may also be used to rehabilitate brownfields in Nassau County. These sites currently are unusable due to past contamination. Continued clean-up of sites will allow Nassau County to regain control of these lands, and put them to proper use within the communities. “The referendum, if passed by the voters will impact a wide range of programs. This is a very unique chance for the residents of Nassau to approve an environmental referendum that will not only preserve and reclaim land for future generations, but will protect our drinking water and parklands in the immediate future,” added Legislator Muscarella.
The County Executive will make proposals for any land acquisitions, clean water projects, or brownfield rehabilitations. Those proposals will be transmitted to the Nassau County Planning Commission and the Nassau County Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee (OSPAC) for review, evaluation, and recommendation. “Any proposals brought forth will have to go through a series of channels before being approved. This will allow a number of highly qualified individuals to ask questions or make recommendations in an effort to improve all programs. I am very pleased that the Legislature as a whole approved placing this referendum on the November ballot, its cost will be approximately $7 on each tax bill. That $7 will go a long way to improving the lives of all Nassau County residents, now and in the future,” commented Legislator Muscarella.
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From The Community Alliance. . .
Voting With Head and Heart, Not Feet
They’re voting with their feet, folks. And the complaints expressed on issues, from housing woes to traffic jams, are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The questions we’re hearing most from the gallery are (1) Does anybody out there really care about us? and (2) What are “they” doing about…?
We are convinced that people do care – and we gratuitously include our elected officials in this blend of community advocates. There is, to say the least, plenty of talk about what “needs” to be done -Strengthening and enforcement of the law; creation of a broad base of affordable housing stock; economic redevelopment; the re-establishment of our downtowns; a comprehensive transportation plan; a viable alternative to the onerous property tax; a true and workable ”Master Plan” for Long Island – among other initiatives.
Just turn on your local programming on any given evening and you will no doubt find the planners, the economists, the NPO chiefs, the public officials and even the “God Squad” hashing out the issues, joining in the great public debate.
Now, it is time for “them” – as the “they” in “What are ‘they’ doing about…?” – to channel the talk into spirited and decisive action. To execute upon the long-term vision with realistic, practical plans; to begin to implement far-sighted initiatives in short order.
On the affordable housing front alone, we can, and must, move with all deliberate speed to do more. [As a relevant aside, by "affordable housing," we're not talking about a 1960s, "throw money at it" housing project approach. The widely held, and perhaps inevitable, misconception when "affordable" and "housing" are linked. We're talking about housing that's affordable to our children, our parents, and, yes, even to us.]
We must look beyond the spot building of two houses here and three houses there – the stuff that photo ops are made of. We have to reinvent the mindset that suburbia cannot tolerate either high-density or the responsible mix of residential, retail and recreational use. In reality, today’s suburban landscape has already been compromised (what is the number of “open space” acres left in Nassau County, for instance? 42?). We are living in a “high-density” environment, surrounded by a hodge-podge of unrestrained and unrestricted land use. Do not tell us that we cannot do better. We certainly can, and we will.
Truth is, the “they” in the equation is “us?” [Or is it are "us." Sorry, nary an English major here. ] We have to do our part – raising awareness; stirring the debate; precipitating beneficial change; encouraging our neighbors to vote with their heads and their hearts, and not with their feet.
Best regards from Quality (of Life) Central!
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In Response to MTA’s Proposal to Close West Hempstead Line of LIRR:
I am shocked and saddened by the MTA’s recent proposal to discontinue service along the entire West Hempstead line. More than being an important transportation link for residents who live in the communities that are serviced by it, the WH line is truly a lifeline to our respective communities. The Malverne station, for example, quite visibly makes up the geographic and social center of that village. Abandoning the line would undoubtedly leave a void in Malverne from which they could never successfully recover. The line also supports many local businesses, like the small convenience stores near the stations that are sustained by the patronage of rail commuters. Imagine the impact to these small business owners were The MTA to shutter these stations.