Richard A. Benack was sworn in as the 36th mayor of Garden City on Monday, April 3, 1995 by then Acting Village Justice Duncan Fraser at the organizational meeting of the board of trustees. He was elected on March 21, 1995 to the two-year term in an unopposed race for the office. He ran with Trustee Collins, Trustee Bee, Trustee Asselta, and Allen S. Mathers, who had been mayor from April of 1993 until Benack was officially sworn in as mayor, and at that time became a trustee. Upon being elected to the Village's highest post, Benack said, "I have always had a love affair with Garden City. I'm impressed with the Village and I always like to see things improved, made better and prettier than they are." Through all of the trials Garden City faced through his term as mayor, the love affair certainly continued.
Benack began serving the Village as a trustee where he served as fire commissioner, commissioner of buildings, commissioner of recreational and cultural affairs, a representative on the Postal Advisory Committee, a liaison to the Garden City Public Library, chairman of the Public Information Committee, chairman of the Human Resources Committee, chairman of the Committee to Fill Vacancies, chairman of the Ethics Committee, and chairman of the Environmental Advisory Board. In April of 1993 he became the deputy mayor under Allen S. Mathers. Prior to serving the Village as a trustee, he was the vice president and then president of the Central Property Owners' Association. He also served as a Board of Education trustee for two years.
Benack has lived in Garden City with his wife Miriam since 1971. Two of his four children are still residents of Garden City, Edward and Mary Ann. Richard, Jr. lives in Omaha, Nebraska and William lives in Redmond, Washington. Benack founded Benack and Benack, a law firm that maintains its offices in Garden City. He has been active in little league baseball, soccer, and softball as a coach in the Village. He is also an active member of the congregation of St. Joseph's in Garden City.
This active member of the community, attorney, husband, and father was also a captain in the military who left the service with honors. He first joined the United States Army's Transportation Corps as a second lieutenant after graduating from Fordham University's College of Arts and Sciences with a B.A. After leaving the military, he completed his education at Brooklyn Law School.
Benack's inaugural speech addressed the issues facing the Village in 1995. He stated his firm belief in the Village's ability to overcome its obstacles through hard work and expressed his commitment to working towards the Village's goals. "It is our fortune to face together, at this time in the history if Garden City, a new day in which the talents and the energies of all of us will blend in a surge of strength that will again raise our Village to the prestige, the honor, and the role of leadership in Nassau County, on all of Long Island and even through the state that once was ours."
He identified challenges such as the development of the Roosevelt Field Mall and the revitalization of neighboring communities' business districts and said that he and the other board members were "confident we will find viable and exciting solutions" to overcoming a declining business district within the Village. He also identified opportunities for the Village such as the use of the fields at St. Paul's, a closer relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, and a closer relationship with the Adelphi University community. "We will reach out to them, consult with them and, hopefully, work together to make Garden City a world of tranquility here on Long Island. A huge undertaking some may say. But one that best begins here, close to our homes and close to our hearts."
He described the board of trustees as a "blend of gray foxes and hungry tigers who want to face these new challenges and they do so with a sense of confidence." He said that with this board he hoped to work towards his vision of Garden City's future and he thanked the voters. "I thank you for entrusting to this board your confidence and your belief that we have the capabilities of making your Village the land of your dreams. The land of my dreams."
In his two years as mayor the board continued to explore possibilities for the St. Paul's property and finally, by the end of his service of mayor, arrived at the assisted living solution, which was approved shortly after Benack handed the reigns over to Mayor Tauches. The Village saw the development of the Business Planning Coalition's report under Benack's mayoralty. The moratorium for the Hempstead Branch of the LIRR against freight shipping was achieved while Benack was mayor and the agreement was signed by Benack. Plans for the revitalization of Franklin Avenue began to take shape with Benack as mayor. Use of St. Paul's playing fields for the recreation department and the development of Cluett Hall as a community theater/arts center took place during Benack's two years as mayor.
In just two short years the Village faced many conflicts, obstacles, and dilemmas, and with the help of then Mayor Benack the Village managed to not only survive these trials, but is now moving towards the resolution of many of these issues. The testimonial dinner was held for just these reasons. It afforded the residents and Village government an opportunity to thank Richard Benack for his service to the community and his leadership. It also provided an opportunity to reflect on where the Village was two years ago, where it is now, and where it needs to be or can be in the future.
As the 1997 holiday season rapidly approaches and the year seems to be drawing to a close, everyone in the Village can take an opportunity to remember the hard work of Garden City's 36th mayor and begin to plan for Garden City 1998.