I would like to extend my gratitude and appreciation to the residents of Floral Park. I am deeply honored and I consider it a real privilege to serve as your mayor. I am committed to the village and its future and I look forward to working with my fellow board members, the village administration, civic leaders, Chamber of Commerce and most importantly, the residents of our village to keep moving Floral Park forward. Our village has grown to become one of the most desirable communities on Long Island to live and work and my vision as we move forward is to continue providing an excellent quality of life while maintaining a financially sound government.
After being sworn in on April 6, my first order of business was to acknowledge former mayor Phil Guarnieri. As most of you will agree, his dedication and commitment to our residents and business community was second to none. For those of you that had an opportunity to listen to him speak or read what he wrote, it was obvious the amount of passion he has for this village and the position that he served.
Phil is a man of reason and logic, he believes that there are two sides to every story and would ask questions and get the facts before he made a decision. Phil will leave a major void on the board, but he can rest knowing that his knowledge and experience will be remembered. I have had the privilege to work side by side with Phil since I joined the board in 1995 and the honor to serve as his deputy mayor since 2005.
I want to thank Mayor Phil Guarnieri for all of his hard work and commitment and he should be proud to know he left the village a better place to live. I would like to extend a special thanks to Phil's wife Sonia for sharing Phil with us for the past 15 years. I wish both of you a healthy and happy future together.
As you all know and feel personally on a daily basis, costs for day-to-day operations have gone up-fuel products for vehicles, as well as heating homes, electricity costs, construction and supply materials, health, retirement, Social Security and compensation benefits, labor contract costs etc. It is a constant challenge to look to new ways to cut costs, work more efficiently and "smarter" and still provide the services necessary for the quality of life the Village of Floral Park represents. Being a good steward of your tax money is a top priority of mine and I have complete confidence that the village board and the village management staff agree.
As we worked to prepare the FY2009 budget, we faced some unique challenges. The current national financial environment with low interest earnings, record fuel prices, decreased consumer spending and slowed residential construction required the village to diligently evaluate every expenditure. As a result of our management team efforts, expenses have been reduced through a series of cost-saving measures and operating efficiencies across departments and operating funds. These improvements in day-to-day village operations are sustainable over the long term and still allow staff to provide village services at their current levels. No reduction in village service levels is proposed. Staff will monitor service levels throughout 2009 and report any key findings during quarterly budget reviews.
With all of the economic challenges, I believe the modest tax increase of 3.4 percent is reasonable. I hope that you can recognize the efforts that your management team has put into this year's budget and recognize that it is sound and logical during these times. Copies of the budget are available at Village Hall.
Nassau County Department of Health announced one confirmed case and two probable cases of swine flu in Nassau County. I am happy to report that no individual has been hospitalized.
In an effort to protect yourself and your family, I ask that you take the following precautions:
· Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Alcohol-based hand cleansers are also effective.
· Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
· If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
· Use a tissue when you cough, sneeze or spit, and dispose of the tissue in a covered trash bin.
· Keep hands away from your face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
· Clean shared space more often such as phone receivers, keyboards, steering wheels and office equipment.
· Refrain from sharing personal items such as forks, spoons, toothbrushes and towels.
To help prevent the spread of H1N1 flu (swine flu), frequently touched hard surfaces, such as doorknobs, refrigerator door handles, telephones, bedside tables in sick rooms and bathroom surfaces should be cleaned by washing with soap or detergent and rinsed with water. For added protection, these surfaces should then be disinfected and rinsed. Use sanitizer wipes or cloths moistened with disinfectant to wipe electronic items (phones, computers, remote controls) that are touched often. Avoid excessive use of disinfectant or sanitizer on electronic equipment.
This is a rapidly evolving situation. Updates are likely to change in the upcoming days and weeks as more information becomes available. For information, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov or the Nassau County Department of Health website.
I had the privilege to attend the Annual Fire Department Installation Dinner. Our Fire Department is 100 percent volunteer. The current membership exceeds 150 members dedicated to the safety and protection of our village residents and businesses. This past year, our volunteers responded to over 1,300 fire and medical alarms.
At their annual installation dinner, the department recognized outgoing Chief Frank Wakely Jr. for all of his hard work and dedication for the past five years. I want to thank Frank for an outstanding job and wish him and his wife Lisa a happy and healthy future. I would like to congratulate the new Chief of Department Rick Militello and his Assistant Chiefs Everett Ulmer, John Kelleher, Bob Hayes and Vincent Modica and wish them well in their term.
As you may have read, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) was thrown a last-minute curve by the MTA when they announced the cancellation of rail service to Belmont just days before the opening of NYRA's spring meet. We are fortunate to have a good ongoing relationship with NYRA that expressed itself by reaching out to our community to review proposals to assist Belmont patrons who travel by rail to the track.
Although initial indications leaned toward usage of the Floral Park station for shuttle service on race days, NYRA officials ultimately chose to arrange this service from the nearby Queens Village station. It should be noted that NYRA's operational staff were immediately receptive to our input on this subject and, although under the gun to take quick action on behalf of their patrons, were more than willing to accommodate our concerns. The fact that the MTA fails to see the ultimate benefits of continuing the Belmont race day service should not cast a negative light on NYRA who came through for us once again. We will now look to our legislators to provide NYRA and Belmont the resources they need and deserve.