Garden City Central Property Owners' Association (CPOA) President Pat DiMattia presented Mayor Peter Bee with a vintage map of the Inc. Village of Garden City. The map is unique since it is mounted on a foldable board. The Garden City Historical Society is safeguarding the map. Mayor Bee was thankful for the donation, knowing that such items are important to maintain a record of the village's history.
Trustee John Watras attempted to make a motion Jan. 10 to get a preliminary appraisal of the Texaco site property to explore turning it into a parking lot. Trustee Robert Rothschild, however, convinced him to pay the Garden City Chamber of Commerce its due respect and first discuss the idea with them.
"You know, in this town we don't exactly have a plethora of parking downtown and I believe we are beginning to develop a very vitalized downtown. I would like to see perhaps if maybe we could buy that Texaco site and use it for parking," Trustee Watras suggested.
The motion entailed obtaining an appraisal not to exceed $15,000.
Trustee Nick Episcopia agreed that the property should be appraised but that it must be done the right way. Trustee Rothschild, however, was dead set against the idea and thought it an absolute waste of village money.
"I am absolutely dead opposed to doing anything to turn that into a parking lot. This village has worked very hard to keep the parking behind the facilities ... The Business Planning Coalition has worked very hard at understanding the parking condition in this village. To turn the center corner of this village into a parking lot I think is an absolute disaster of a mistake," he said.
Trustee Rothschild continued, adding, "This is an appropriate location for apartments upstairs and retail downstairs to retain the revitalization of this village's commercial district. It's been in the works since 1995 and to now turn the major corner in this village from a gas station, which a lot of people liked at the time, but now that it's gone to now turn it into a parking lot is beyond my comprehension and I am absolutely dead set against it."
Trustee Watras, who said he has not yet decided to go ahead and make an acquisition but is simply wishing to explore the topic, shot back, stating, "The point is there's no damn parking in downtown Garden City.
Trustee Rothschild suggested that he defer his motion until after speaking to the Garden City Chamber of Commerce, whom he said has worked very hard on their downtown plan.
Trustee Watras agreed.
Although it may take much more to convince residents otherwise, newly installed Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) President Helena Williams ardently stated in January that the highly controversial "third track" project is not moving forward to accommodate increased freight on the Main Line but rather to improve overall service.
"The Long Island Rail Road doesn't need a track for freight," she told editors at Anton Newspapers during a meeting in Mineola Jan. 3. "Freight is a very expensive proposition. We have the capacity to move more freight on the current tracks if New York & Atlantic [Railway] needs more. We don't need another track to do that."
"We have lots of stuck trains," she admitted. The passing lane theory is intended to improve capacity, President Williams continued.
This "third" track, however, is not intended to act as just a passing lane. President Williams explained that the additional track would help the railroad improve capacity and increase reliable on-time service for its customers.
Originally, local officials were told that the third track was necessary to accommodate a reverse commute. It appeared, however, that MTA/LIRR officials have now abandoned that theory.
Improved service reliability, Williams said, would only better the East Side Access project, the highly anticipated connection to Grand Central Station that would, for the first time in history, create two Manhattan gateways. The expected service date for the new terminal station at Grand Central is June 2014. This project, Williams said, relies heavily on three key investments essential to its success: (1) eliminating what she described as the "Jamaica crawl" - the "spaghetti" of tracks at Jamaica station where all trains converge with the exception of the Port Washington branch; (2) adding 264 additional cars of which the railroad is in the process of locating yards in Suffolk County to store the cars in; and (3) Main Line corridor improvements. The third investment is what has residents living along the 10-mile Main Line stretch worried.
Senator Kemp Hannon held a news conference Jan. 12 announcing legislation (S. 6727/A. 9635) mandating freight train companies carrying hazardous wastes and radioactive materials alert local villages and first responders to the shipments. Local villages, fire departments, schools and public facilities have not been given the information even though such information is given to county entities.
"The local villages and fire departments have been kept in the dark as to the transportation of these materials, which can include radioactive soil from Brookhaven, liquid or gas nitrogen, and construction and factory wastes. In the event of an emergency, first responders would not know how to appropriately cope with the situation. This legislation requires all railroads transporting hazardous materials through Nassau and Suffolk Counties to give advance notice to the MTA, local governments, law enforcement and first responders," Senator Hannon said.
The bill was developed in response to freight train shipments of radioactive materials beings shipped through communities without information being provided to localities and first responders.
Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams told Anton Newspapers: "We support the idea of community notification and we will carefully review this proposal. In fact, in the case of the recent Brookhaven National Lab shipments, we notified the Nassau and Suffolk county executives and the Queens Borough president in writing on Nov. 28, prior to the shipments."
Mayors Phil Guarnieri (Floral Park), Angel Soto (South Floral Park), Dan Petruccio (New Hyde Park), Jack Martins (Mineola) and Deputy Mayor Christina Lynch (Stewart Manor) also attended the press conference. In addition, members of Save Our Village New Hyde Park Association, Inc., a new nonprofit and incorporated civic association organized in response to the Mainline Corridor Improvement and the LITRIM projects, the New Hyde Park and Stewart Manor fire departments as well as residents and parents of local schools like Stewart Manor School also attended.
A Jan. 27 kitchen fire in a Hilton Avenue apartment took the life of an 83-year-old Garden City woman.
The Garden City Fire Department received the initial call on its emergency line at 2:39 p.m. reporting a fire on the fourth floor of the Hilton Avenue apartment complex by the building superintendent.
Firefighters located a small fire in the kitchen area. A water extinguisher put it out. Once the smoke lifted, Captain Frank said Lt. Clancy was able to determine that the fire consisted of a kitchen chair in which the elderly woman was still sitting. The burn injuries were visibly severe. Lt. Clancy at that time concluded the occupant was deceased. The county's fire marshal was called to the scene to investigate, along with Garden City police. A preliminary investigation stated the cause of the fire to be careless smoking.
Garden City's Recreation Commission approved the installation of a fence at St. Paul's. The 4-foot, black, estate-style fencing, similar to what was installed across the street along the Garden City Middle School fields, would run 1,000 feet from the St. Paul's entrance west along Stewart Avenue.
Kevin Ocker, chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Cultural and Recreational Affairs, noted the fence could cost approximately $75,000 for the 1,000-foot stretch but noted it could be purchased on a Nassau County contract, which could save the village money in the end. The middle school purchased their fencing for approximately $74 a square foot and still plans on adding vegetation along the strip.
Trustee Robert Rothschild, board liaison to Cultural and Recreational Affairs, noted that this item had come before the recreation commission time and time again. "The recreation commission couldn't remember how many times they've discussed this and approved it..." he said.
Recreation Commission members did say they did not want a full run of vegetation in front of the fence. "People like seeing the fields and I agree with them," Trustee Rothschild added.
Garden City residents back in 2004 questioned the need for the proposed installation of a fence and walking/jogging path at the St. Paul's fields. The recreation department cited safety concerns because those playing fields are so heavily used throughout the year.
Over 350 Garden City residents attended four separate public outreach briefings conducted by AvalonBay Communities in January regarding the company's tentative proposal to restore, preserve and reuse the long- closed St. Paul's School building on Stewart Avenue.
Three of the village's Property Owners Associations - East, Estates and Western - received presentations at general membership meetings held Jan. 15, and AvalonBay held an open reception and briefing for village residents Jan. 16 at The Garden City Hotel. All four sessions were well attended, and residents were fully engaged in the dialogue generated on the effort to preserve St. Paul's, AvalonBay officials said. AvalonBay also made a presentation to the Central POA previously.
"We received some very valuable feedback from the community," Garden City resident Matt Whalen, vice president, Development for AvalonBay Communities and the Avalon at St. Paul's project, said. "The comments have been frank and wide-ranging. Some residents expressed a very keen desire to save and preserve St. Paul's, and offered suggestions on how the building should be used. And, some residents expressed a desire to see the building torn down."
Garden City's neighbor, the Village of Mineola, seriously considered and consequently approved a condominium complex dubbed The Winston for the north side of Old Country Road, between Willis Avenue and Main Street, because village officials believe the project will provide tax revenue as well as housing for an area that some consider underutilized.
Garden City officials, however, have one major problem with the proposal - it's too big - and urged Mineola officials to scale down the project. The Winston is expected to stand 88 feet high. The suggested nine-story, 285-unit condominium complex, with a 15-foot setback, will undoubtedly impact Garden City, Trustee Tom Lamberti said. "This is going to be a massive structure." Fellow Garden City trustees agreed.
Specifically, Garden City trustees wanted the project's height significantly lowered, from nine stories to five or six, and the complex's density adjusted to 45 to 60 units to the acre, rather than the 140 units to the acre currently on the table.
The complex, said to cost $165 million, will provide one and a half parking spaces per condo, provided underneath the condo units, Vince Polimeni, owner of Polimeni International, said. He added that the complex would have a doorman, a concierge and health club.
"The revenue will be tremendous. The amount of people spending money downtown would be tremendous because you can walk to restaurants and all these things [people] use right there," Polimeni said. "That's what Mineola wants to do - basically come back and revitalize the entire downtown area and to do that, you need pedestrian traffic. People can literally walk to the downtown area and walk to the train station."
Consulting economist Dr. Pearl M. Kramer has estimated real estate taxes derived from the complex would total $804,380 toward the town/county tax; $2,848,133 toward the Mineola School District; and $251,050 toward the Village of Mineola.
The Garden City Public Library opened its new reading room for its periodical collection. Magazines and newspapers are displayed so that patrons can easily see the covers of the current issues. The new shelving lifts up to allow patrons easy access to prior issues, which are stored within the unit and immediately behind the current issue. Library patrons enjoy the new armchairs and tables in this brightly lit, windowed room, which occupies the corner of the building along Seventh Street and Hilton Avenue. Comfortable oversized reading chairs were also placed in this newly decorated area. New study carrels have also been assembled for patrons to work near the reference area as part of the Library's ongoing renovation.
After Mayor Peter Bee finally regained order following a heated argument between Mayor's Committee on St. Paul's members John Mauk (chair) and Tom Lamberti on Feb. 7, trustees approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the village and AvalonBay that essentially provided a "roadmap of what each party's responsibilities are."
Specifically, the document asked AvalonBay a series of options for development that reflect some of the concerns trustees have raised in AvalonBay's meetings with the property owners' associations and other local groups. Those options were later presented to the community.
The MOU did provide for a termination clause, enabling either party to walk away.
The MOU specifically stated that the village and developer were entering into the understanding to establish a framework for "informing village residents about details of the proposed project and receiving resident feedback, for negotiating the developer lease and other instruments required to consummate the transaction, to allow for the performance of any environmental, structural and other investigations that may be required and for undertaking various planning, design, engineering and other related activities."
It went on to say that the developer "acknowledges that the proposal has not been formally accepted by the village board of trustees, and that it remains subject to further discussion and negotiation. It is the parties' intention to negotiate and reach understandings on the primary business issues contained in the proposal on or before Feb. 29, 2008 and memorialize such understandings in an addendum to this MOU."
Further, the MOU stated the "developer acknowledges that the paramount objective for the village in any redevelopment is to restore the Main Building's historic exterior and other distinguished features to the extent possible, and provide for its long-term maintenance at minimal or no direct cost to village taxpayers. Any private redevelopment or use of the Main Building that does not achieve these minimal objectives is unacceptable."
Likewise, the village "acknowledges that the developer has advised it that while the developer is prepared to discuss and negotiate the terms of the proposal, developer has certain minimum economic thresholds it must meet and, accordingly, it may be limited in making changes to its development proposal. In any event, as set for in Section 4.1 hereof, either party may terminate this MOU at any time."
After several deadline extensions, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) finally reached an agreement Feb. 13 with the governor, Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker, enabling it to continue operating thoroughbred horse racing at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga's racecourse for the next 25 years.
The awarded franchise was considered an important step toward getting NYRA out of bankruptcy. The agreement calls on the state to advance $105 million in financial support to assist NYRA in emerging from bankruptcy proceedings. The state's advance will be paid for through revenue streams from the new video lottery terminals (VLTs) facility approved for Aqueduct.
NYRA President Charles Hayward, a longtime racing fan since 1980, who lives five minutes from the Saratoga racetrack, said he knows how important the dynamics of a racetrack are to a community. And having attended the Senate hearing in Elmont some months back, Hayward said it was a humbling experience.
"I stayed through most of it. They banged on us pretty well and we probably deserved it. But we learned from that..." Hayward said, adding that he'd like to see several things that have been done at Saratoga to be used as an example of what could be done at Belmont Park.
The legislation, agreed upon just prior to another deadline extension, also allows for the installation of VLTs at Aqueduct, but not yet at Belmont Park, like some local officials had hoped.
For more than two years, officials attempted to iron out goals for a final agreement that would essentially keep thoroughbred horseracing thriving in New York State. The newly agreed upon racing model aims to "reform the status quo" through more accountability and increased oversight. The agreement includes a Franchise Oversight Board evaluation every four years, examining NYRA's operations to assess whether or not it's met certain financial and performance benchmarks.
If the state decides to operate the facility itself, the legislation authorizes the expenditure of up to $250 million for construction of the VLT facility at Aqueduct. VLT revenues from the facility would recoup the funds. The installation of VLTs at Aqueduct is expected to generate over $300 million annually for education in the state.
NYRA's franchise officially expired Dec. 31, 2007. Just as early as Feb. 11, 2008 negotiations appeared grim, according to some. And if an acceptable agreement wasn't reached by Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008 NYRA officials were ready to close the Aqueduct meet and potentially layoff hundreds of workers.
But because officials, just days later, were able to approve the final agreement just before another deadline extension loomed closer, future discussions are now taking place on several issues, including the implementation of VLTs at Belmont and finding a realistic solution to the plight of off track betting (OTBs).
After a public attack alleging that Trustee John Mauk and his employer, CB Richard Ellis, could possibly benefit from a deal between designated St. Paul's developer AvalonBay and the village, he announced his immediate resignation as chair of the Mayor's Committee on St. Paul's - as well as his involvement in the committee altogether - in a formal letter sent to Mayor Peter Bee in February.
Allegations stemmed from the Feb. 7, 2008 board meeting when Euston Road resident Ed Keating, a member of the executive committee of the Committee to Save St. Paul's, told trustees that Mauk's employer has a "well-publicized history of brokering the sale of AvalonBay properties, typically a few years after AvalonBay completes construction of a given development" and that "an affiliate of CB Richard Ellis, known as CB Richard Ellis Global Real Estate Securities, owns nearly 300,000 shares of AvalonBay stock, an investment valued at more than $28 million."
Keating made further allegations but Trustee Mauk, who refrained from any comment on the issue during the meeting, stated in a letter to Mayor Bee that he was unaware of any business relationship his employer had with AvalonBay until the issue was raised. "...If I had known of one, I would have announced that fact in public immediately," he said.
After determining, however, that such a relationship did indeed exist, Trustee Mauk defended himself, stating that the relationship is "far different" from what was portrayed. He noted in the letter: "CBRE's investment in AvalonBay amounts to a tiny fraction, approximately .00074 percent, of the total $37.8 billion invested by CBRE Global Investment Management. In addition, CBRE's stock ownership doesn't represent 12 percent of AvalonBay's outstanding stock, as alleged at the meeting, but a much less substantial .04 percent."
He added that many of the other "facts" cited at the board meeting were "presented out of context, or are completely inaccurate." He wanted to make vehemently clear that this issue has absolutely nothing to do with any decision he has made regarding St. Paul's - or anything else. "Once I learned of the connection, however, I resolved to take steps immediately to avoid even an inference of any impropriety," Trustee Mauk said.
He continued, "I consider a decision on the future of St. Paul's to be among the most important the village will ever make. I don't want that obscured by people who would prefer to make me the issue, instead of allowing an honest examination of the facts ... By removing myself from further decisions regarding AvalonBay redevelopment of St. Paul's, I hope to refocus the discussion on the facts and merits of the redevelopment options, and to keep this important decision from being distorted by irrelevant side issues..."
On the heels of Trustee John Mauk resigning from his post as chair of the Mayor's Committee on St. Paul's - and in light of his somewhat combative relationship with fellow trustee and committee member Tom Lamberti - he highly recommended that Trustee Lamberti take over the reigns.
"I have always supported his campaign and I know he has the village's best interests at heart," Trustee Mauk said of Trustee Lamberti. "I'm stepping down but I'm not going away."
Trustee Lamberti accepted the offer, what he described as a heavy burden placed upon his shoulders, and thanked Trustee Mauk for his gracious words. "We have had our differences but we have a common goal," Trustee Lamberti said.
With Trustee Mauk leaving the committee altogether, to some there appeared to be a vacancy. Mayor Peter Bee however said that because there is no fixed number of trustees intended for the committee, he did not have any intention of adding to the committee.
High winds March 5 tore two trees from their roots, letting one break through a Princeton Street home's roof and ridgepole. No injuries were reported but the incident caused extensive damage estimated at $50,000 according to a Garden City Fire Department report. An investigation found the two downed trees, wires down, one telephone pole snapped and water coming into the basement from a downstairs toilet. LIPA and the village's water department and tree crew were called to the scene. The home's power was shut off and a sump pump used in the basement.
At a somewhat explosive standing room only board meeting March 13, Trustee Tom Lamberti, a proponent of transparency among trustees and those they serve, announced March 13, unbeknownst to Mayor Peter Bee and fellow trustees, that he wanted a review of the village's code of ethics. He also believes the village's Board of Ethics - comprised of one trustee and two resident members - should be examining possible conflicts of interest among board members - not village counsel.
"I'm sure you're aware [that] issues have risen with regard to trustees that may or may not involve conflicts covered by that code ... We have a board of ethics. We have a code of ethics. If you read the code it will describe conduct that should take place..." Trustee Lamberti said, adding that he was not accusing any fellow board member of wrongdoing. "We have had issues, let's not be naïve ... It's a mockery to have a board of ethics and never use it."
Garden City's code of ethics was first adopted in 1970. According to Village Counsel Gary Fishberg, the code has been looked at from time to time and despite being more than 30 years old, it doesn't need a major overhaul. In fact, he said, remarkably, many neighboring municipalities have a code of ethics quite similar to that of Garden City's.
The code, in part, states that the board of trustees must recognize that rules must be observed if a high degree of moral conduct is to be attained and if public confidence is to be maintained.
Five members of the American Legion presented Garden City Mayor Peter Bee with a Blue Star Service Banner March 13 on behalf of Garden City Police Officer Kevin Reilly, who was recently called back to Iraq for active duty, and his family.
The Blue Star Service Banner was a common site in America's neighborhoods during World Wars I and II, Donovan noted. Created in 1917, people hung it in their windows to denote that a member of the immediate family was serving in the armed forces.
Nassau County American Legion Membership Chair Frank Colon, who took part in the March 13 presentation at Village Hall, first thought of the idea to present a 3-foot by 5-foot Blue Star Banner to the village.
Commander John Donovan embraced the idea and during Law & Order Night ceremonies honoring members of the Garden City police and fire departments and the Mineola Ambulance Corps, Garden City Police Commissioner Ernest Cipullo indicated that Police Officer Kevin Reilly was serving in Iraq.
The news, Donovan said, triggered the idea to present Blue Star Service Banners to both the family of Kevin Reilly and to Mayor Bee on behalf of the entire Village of Garden City.
On behalf of Nassau County American Legion Post 265, Colon said Garden City is one of the last villages to have the large banner displayed at Village Hall, along with the banner's history and description.
Police Officer Reilly was deployed in January 2008. He is a major in the U.S. Army and was recalled from reserve retired. A 10-year veteran of the Garden City Police Department, he was activated after September 11, 2001 but did not go overseas, according to Garden City police.
Any veterans interested in joining the Legion, and any immediate relatives of a person serving in the active armed forces, are encouraged to contact Legion Commander Donovan at 739-0181 to discuss the awarding of a Blue Star Service Banner to their family.
A quiet election year in Garden City turned interesting just days before residents headed to the polls March 18.
Trustee John Mauk, who represents the Estates section of Garden City, proved victorious despite an 11th hour attempt to oust him. Western section resident Eileen Collins, in a mass email to her neighbors, urged them to "send a clear message" to Trustee Mauk that "integrity and trust are alive in Garden City" by voting for her through write-ins.
According to the village clerk, Collins received a total of 163 write-in votes while Trustee Mauk, who believed he was running uncontested this year because no one had challenged his property owners' association's nomination of himself, received 334 votes.
Collins, who had served the village as a trustee during the time in which Garden City voted to purchase the St. Paul's property, told Garden City Life that she had not even entertained the idea of a challenge to Trustee Mauk across the sections until after the March 13 meeting where residents, she said, were so offended "by him," "his attitude" and the "whole ethics issue."
Collins was out of state and did not attend the meeting but received several phone calls from residents asking her to run. "Residents want transparency in their government ... If a POA just cannot find somebody or the person they nominate seems to have taken a late stance on their recusal and seems to be divisive and dismisses men and women when they come up to the microphone, then yes, I believe it is a citizen's calling to challenge and the write-in was the way I was asked to do it," she said.
Collins began planning her "campaign" Friday evening, March 14, 2008. With three days and maybe 16 people helping, Collins said she still was able to get 163 people to write her name on the ballot. "I ran to make the board more diverse," she said, adding that three residents who called and asked her to run believed she could do just that.
Collins said even though she lost the election she still believes she won. "I opened up discussion about the POA nominating committees and the village's Community Agreement," she told Garden City Life, adding that if residents want her to serve and they ask her again - and if the time was right - she would. "It's time for a new day and new beginning," she added.
Trustee Mauk was on vacation as of press time and unavailable for comment. According to Village Administrator Bob Schoelle, such a situation has never happened before in the village's history.
Friends of the Garden City South Little League, Inc. kicked off the League's 54th season with a March 28 rally. The event, intended to show support for the area's oldest baseball/softball program, celebrated Cherry Valley's 50th year as the League's home field.
Friends of the Garden City South Little League, Inc. is a community group independent of the League itself that shares the common goal of preventing the dissolution of the League due to the threatened loss of its home field.
The Town of Hempstead leases the Cherry Valley ball fields from the Village of Garden City for Garden City South Little League (GCSLL) use. Garden City trustees back in November 2007 granted a one-year lease extension to enable the League continued use of the ball fields despite pleas from Village of Garden City baseball program officials who said their village's own teams are in dire need of those fields in order to accommodate Garden City's young players.
Garden City residents John Donachie and John Sorensen, who spoke publicly on the matter at a Garden City trustees meeting, wanted the Cherry Valley fields returned to their fold for numerous reasons, including the opportunity for their players, during a 10- or 12-game season, to play some games on their home turf.
Unbeknownst to some, Garden City has been leasing the fields to the Town of Hempstead for the past 50 years. League supporters and volunteers, however, want the opportunity to continue playing, caring and maintaining the ball fields for another half century.
They rallied March 28 for the League's future, noting that a long-term deal would better establish the League and enable the League's board of directors to concentrate on running a program without looking over its shoulder year to year.
League President Andrew Monteleone states on the League's official website, www.eteamz.com/GCSLL/index.cfm?, "This will be a very challenging year for the Garden City South Little League. We have many important decisions to make regarding our league's future!"
On March 30 Stewart Manor Mayor Salvatore Manfre served as honorary ribbon cutter to the newly renovated Stewart Manor Country Club. The ceremony took place on the front lawn. A buffet style brunch followed, including a meat carving station; pasta; seafood; sushi; waffles; fresh fruit; muffins; baked desserts; made to order omelets and crepes and much more.
Originally opened in 1927, Stewart Manor Country Club has been an iconic part of the community operating exclusively as a catering hall since the early 1970s. In December 2007, new owners Nick Pellegrini, Frank Paladino and Robert Martini acquired the country club and closed the facility for two months of renovations.
The country club reopened in February 2008 with an updated look and new menu created by Chef Peter Mattheos.
In April, new lockers are in place at the Golf Club Lane senior center thanks to recent senior group leader meetings with Village Administrator Robert Schoelle and Kevin Ocker, chair of the Board of Commissioners of Cultural and Recreational Affairs. Additional improvements continued in the coming weeks, including a new floor and a fresh coat of paint.
"A little logistical exchange of the contents, a smattering of paint, a new floor and presto a new locker room will be created. It's a small start but we are willing to inch along," a recent Retired Men's Club column, which appears weekly in Garden City Life, stated.
Several senior group leaders had been meeting regularly with village officials to discuss ways to improve the facility, a center in which senior residents are very "content" and "comfortable" using.
Winthrop-University Hospital requested the use of 250 parking spaces in Parking Field 6E, which is located behind the Garden City Chamber of Commerce tollhouse off Seventh Street.
Hospital employees needed to use the lot for approximately 12 months, according to John Broder, vice president of external affairs and development at Winthrop-University Hospital, while Winthrop rehabilitates and expands its own parking facilities. If granted use of the lot, hospital employees would then be transported to and from Winthrop by hospital-owned and operated jitneys Monday through Friday between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Some trustees suggested charging a nominal fee but ultimately Winthrop withdrew its request.
Former trustee (1991-1997) Eileen Collins, a resident of the West, defended her reasons for challenging Trustee John Mauk in this year's village election.
She quoted a line from her favorite movie, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, that states: "The only causes worth fighting for are lost causes." "I have integrity and I have dignity," Collins, who is proud to have received 163 write-in votes, said, "and I have a right to challenge and I did."
Some residents, however, criticized her failed attempt to run across the village's Community Agreement. Adopted back in 1919, the agreement boasts "government without politics" and states that each section of the village - East, West, Estates and Central - has two of its residents on the board of trustees, assuring equal representation, at all times.
Collins was insulted by a particular letter printed in the Garden City Life that stated the Committee To Save St. Paul's (CSSP), of which Collins is former executive director, urged her to run.
"Imagine a [former] president of the East decides to write a letter about me filled with absolute lies," she said, noting, however, for the record, that the Committee to Save St. Paul's - specifically members Peter Negri, Tom Poole and Ed Keating - never approached her to run for trustee. "...The Committee to Save St. Paul's never asked me to run. It was my right as a citizen."
Trustee Mauk, who earned 334 votes, told Garden City Life in an emailed statement that it would indeed be interesting to run against Collins in a "fair and open" village wide election.
However, he said, "With the Community Agreement still firmly in place ... the secret nature of this write-in effort was nothing less than an attempt by a few people to steal the election while no one was looking. No matter how it's spun or justified, I don't think this can be viewed any other way," he said.
Trustee Mauk believes the failed attempt sought to capitalize on the fact that very few residents bother to vote in the general election. "That's because most residents expect the candidate choices made in their POAs to be honored. That is the very essence of the Community Agreement and, if it were not generally followed, fewer than 100 voters could easily skew an election to their liking," he continued.
Breaking somewhat from tradition, on April 7 Mayor Peter Bee announced the new makeup of the village's board of ethics. Village Justice Allen Mathers now chairs the board, serving along with residents Charles Menges Jr. and Maureen Clancy.
Trustee John Mauk was former chair of the board.
Trustee Tom Lamberti, who had been fighting to give the board "more teeth," again argued the way in which potential conflicts of interest are handled. He pointed to three issues in particular that resident Kevin Curtin raised at a recent meeting, involving Mayor Bee and Trustee John Mauk and their business relationships. Trustee Lamberti sought to have those issues referred to the board of ethics but when village counsel advised him he was out of order, he withdrew his motion.
Healthcare advocates joined members of the Working Families Party and the New York State Family Medical Leave Coalition April 22 in front of Senator Kemp Hannon's Garden City district office publicly pleading with the Senate Health Committee chair to bring a bill that would provide families in New York State with paid family medical leave to the Senate floor for a vote.
Families that say they've struggled to cope with medical emergencies without paid time off, along with the Paid Family Leave Stork, also attended the press conference.
In 2007, the Assembly passed a bill (A9245) to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for one to take care of a newborn or sick relative, offering $170 per week through New York's Temporary Disability Insurance.
Advocates hoped the April 22 press conference would pressure Senator Hannon to "finally" take action on what they are calling a "critical piece of legislation."
Senator Hannon told Anton Newspapers that his priorities are to contain costs, pare taxes and create jobs and that this bill raises taxes directly by its specific provisions. "It is the wrong message to businesses that have an option to locate or expand in New York State. It is the wrong message to those who have received pink slips in recent months. It is the wrong message for working women and men who need to pay an extra $10-15 for a tank of gas," Senator Hannon said, adding that the April 22 press conference was nothing more than a "political stunt without substance."
As of April 2008, the United States is one of just four countries (including Liberia, Papua, New Guinea and Swaziland) not providing paid family leave. Further, California and Washington State currently have paid family leave programs. A bill to provide family leave passed the New Jersey legislature. Advocates said Governor John Corzine promised to sign it.
This Memorial Day, Garden City and the other communities along the LIRR's Hempstead line commemorated the centennial of the electrification of the Hempstead line 100 years ago. The LIRR carries over 282,000 people daily and the majority move on electric-powered trains. But this has not always been the case, and this story is a brief history of how Garden City participated in this.
The LIRR has been part of Long Island's growth since the 1830s. Alexander Turney Stewart's private railroad to Garden City was acquired by the LIRR after Stewart died. In the age before automobiles, the railroad was everything and Garden City needed it to grow. However, it was evident that steam locomotives with their soot and noise could never properly serve and grow Long Island, especially for commuters and their bedroom communities.
By the start of the 20th century, electric motive power for trains was under serious consideration. The LIRR was a leader in that thinking, especially since its then parent, the Pennsylvania Railroad, planned Penn Station in New York City with tunnels from New Jersey and Queens into Manhattan.
After years of experiments, including whether a third rail (electric) or overhead wire (caternary) was the way to go, the LIRR decided on the third rail. In an interesting historical tidbit, the little used spur that most today know only for its use by the circus train, had a caternary overhead installed as a test - and then torn out when the third rail was decided on. Garden City and Hempstead were two strong growing towns, in fact the president of the LIRR at that time, Ralph Peters, opted to build a magnificent house on the "Hill in Garden City" in 1905. That home still stands at the corner of 11th Street and Carteret Place.
Basically pioneering in its construction, the LIRR opted for the Hempstead branch to receive the first Long Island service (maybe because Peters lived here now?) With much fanfare, the first train powered by electricity came out from Floral Park, Nassau Boulevard, Garden City, and triumphantly entered the terminal at Hempstead. The white flags on the first car indicated a "special" and indeed it was.
Garden City and the other towns where electrification now existed were spared the difficulties that the noise and smoke that the steam engines caused. Even today when the occasional diesel comes out this way for freight purposes, witnesses can attest to the pollution and noise it causes. Now we hear the safety horn blasts, but that is another story.
-KBS Micro History research by
Garden City High School student KC Hesterberg
Residents passed the Garden City School District's proposed budget of $94,505,801, reflecting a budget-to-budget increase of 4.49 percent and a tax levy-to-levy increase of 4.88 percent, by a vote of 1,057 to 786. Further, Angela Heineman, who ran unopposed and will replace a retiring Ken Monaghan on the school board, received 1,341 votes.
In Elmont, the budget passed by a vote of 1,028 to 619 as it called for a zero percent tax levy increase. Further, Elmont School Board incumbent trustee Aubrey Phillips received 887 votes while her opponent, Anthony Maffea, Sr., received 1,004, proving victorious. In another surprise, Elmont School Board incumbent trustee Elsy Guibert received 793 votes while her opponent, Deniece Walker, earned 1,005 votes, also proving victorious. Phillips was first elected to the board back in 1999 while Guibert has served for the past three years. Stewart Manor School is included in the Elmont School District.
For the second consecutive year, Garden City residents saw a 5 percent rise in their water rate. Trustees approved the increase at the May 22 board meeting. The past rate was 16.80 per 1,000 cubic feet for those who used between 2,000 and 6,000 cubic feet, while the rate was 25.20 for those who used more than 6,000 cubic feet. Village Auditor James Olivo noted the new rate is now 17.65 per 1,000 cubic feet for those using between 2,000 and 6,000 cubic feet, and 26.50 for those using more than 6,000 cubic feet.
Olivo added that this latest increase was necessary because of the "extensive capital project investments made in adding treatment facilities to the system." He added too that electric and chemical costs have also risen, along with other operating costs.
As jockey Kent Desormeaux of Garden City eyed the Triple Crown, hoping to ride Big Brown to victory in the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes, his son, Jacob, served as the guest of honor in the Garden City Belmont Festival Parade, Friday evening, June 6.
The fearless 9-year-old, who suffers from Ushers syndrome, had been the focus of recent national headlines following his father's success with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. Jacob, accompanied by his mother, Sonia, greeted racing fans as part of the annual parade - a fan favorite on the eve of the running of the third leg of the Triple Crown.
To celebrate the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes, acclaimed author Nelson DeMille, also of Garden City, led the Belmont Festival parade through downtown Garden City, as grand marshal.
Garden City Library Director Alan Roeckel said goodbye in June after serving the village for more than three decades. His official last day was Friday, June 20. Roeckel began his career at the library Jan. 5, 1976.
Saying goodbye to the Garden City community was filled with mixed emotions for Roeckel, who said the experience in the village was "extraordinary."
"The honor and pleasure are all mine," Roeckel said when his retirement went public at a recent board of trustees meeting. "This has been a marvelous opportunity for me and I certainly leave with deeply mixed emotions. But as many of you know my wife passed away ... My sons are my family and I believe this is the time for me to be with them. I shall miss this village and the good people in it..."
The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), working closely with the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Health, and the railroad's consultant, developed a remedial action work plan to clean up a railroad-owned Nassau Boulevard substation located on Edgemere Road in Garden City this past June. The removal of contaminated soil from the site is found to have traces of mercury in it.
Volunteer members of the Garden City Special Police have provided dedicated service to fellow residents for 55 years. Long before the events of September 11, 2001, the sworn officers of the Special Police stood ready as emergency first responders to serve in whatever capacity the Garden City police commissioner deemed necessary.
The Special Police supplements the Garden City Police Department in the areas of patrol duty and traffic and pedestrian control at weekly religious services and community events. The Special Police also volunteer their assistance in emergency situations.
On behalf of the Village of Garden City and Garden City Police Department and Commissioner Ernest Cipullo, the Special Police received an appreciative plaque commemorating the organization's 55th anniversary.
The Special Police are always looking for volunteers. Contact Capt. Dave Carpentier or Lt. Steve Browand at Special Police Headquarters [742-9603]. Both men and women residents at least 21 years of age are welcome to volunteer.
In a 5-0 vote June 10 (with two members absent), Town of Hempstead Industrial Development Agency (IDA) members voted unanimously to grant tax breaks to the apparent buyer of The Garden City Hotel, Alrose GCH LLC.
Garden City Mayor Peter Bee, like many residents and the school district's Board of Education president, were dismayed by the decision, to say the least. "We are disappointed that the position of the village and the school district did not prevail," Mayor Bee told Garden City Life, noting however, "We will carefully review the decision of the IDA to determine what steps, if any, the village should take."
IDA members approved a 10-year "payment in lieu of taxes" deal for the proposed hotel developer, which essentially freeze Alrose's current $1.7 million tab for school, county and village taxes for three years. Alrose's payments in lieu of taxes - PILOTs - would then slightly increase over the next seven years. By the eleventh year, however, the hotel owners would be required to pay their full share of real estate taxes. The agreement also includes sales tax exemptions for a reported multi-million dollar renovation project and exemption from a 1 percent mortgage-recording fee.
The Alrose group reportedly plans to renovate the longstanding village landmark. Those changes, however, can no longer include a condominium conversion, which current hotel owners, the Nelkins, were considering for some time and approved to do last year - because condos, IDA members said, generate less tax revenue and jobs than hotel rooms.
According to Garden City School Board President Ken Monaghan, in a June 5 letter to Theodore Sasso, Jr. and Frederick Parola, IDA chairman and executive director/CEO respectively, information the county's Board of Assessors provided the Garden City School District with, the hotel currently pays $1,005,836 in school property taxes. Over the last 10 years, school taxes have risen 91.5 percent while the Class IV (commercial properties) portion of taxes has risen 53 percent.
Monaghan said the district conducted an analysis to estimate the level of taxes that would be paid by Class IV properties going forward and then compared those figures to the amount that the hotel might pay for the next 10 years under IDA provisions. "Given the prospective significant loss of revenue to the school district, it is impossible for the Board of Education to support IDA designation for The Garden City Hotel. While we appreciate the benefits of having successful commercial enterprises in our district, an IDA designation for The Garden City Hotel would inevitably shift a significant portion of the tax burden to other taxpayers," he said.
At the June 5 board meeting, trustees adopted a resolution supporting the school district's position. In Village Counsel Gary Fishberg's June 6 letter to Sasso and Parola, he said, "The village board believes that the tax assistance requested by the applicant is not appropriate when considering the loss of real estate tax revenues to Garden City taxpayers."
"For Nassau County to be sustainable into the next generation and beyond, we must attract young college graduates and businesses to locate here...We need to create 'cool downtowns' in Nassau where commercial areas are located near transportation centers and where housing, mixed-use structures and local amenities can be sited to support walkable communities." With this declaration, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi hosted a forum in Rockville Centre June 5, attended by hundreds of business, civic and community leaders, in addition to a panel of elected officials from across the county, to address the issue of the revitalization of the oldest suburb in America.
The county executive has been touting the need for vital and dynamic downtowns, thereby "recycling and reusing property" for some time. The county executive defined four types of downtowns he envisions in the maturing suburb of Nassau.
Cool Downtowns, with a major purpose of expanding the tax base, would consist of a mixed-use environment with residents living and working in multi-story buildings, be located near transportation and within walking distance of shops and restaurants, and offer a cultural, diverse and educational environment to attract young people and empty nesters. Suozzi cited the Villages of Great Neck Plaza, Rockville Centre and Garden City and the City of Long Beach as examples of cool downtowns, with Westbury, the City of Glen Cove and Mineola on the way.
"All of us in the village have worked hard to make this an attractive place and we are proud to receive the recognition. Garden City residents have known for years that they have a sparkling gem here," Garden City Mayor Bee, who attended the June 5 conference, said.
Citing the lack of funding for the controversial third track project, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) pulled the plug on a plan to lay a third track on the main line between the Floral Park and Hicksville train stations. The MTA will concentrate on a $3.1 billion project to send LIRR trains into Grand Central Station in Manhattan, otherwise known as the East Side Access project.
"Given current funding constraints, the LIRR must be realistic about setting our priorities for the near term. We must make sure the LIRR is ready for 2015 when train service is scheduled to begin to a new LIRR stop at Grand Central Terminal. An estimated $3.1 billion is needed in the MTA's next capital program (2010-2014) to complete the project - known as East Side Access - that will allow LIRR trains to reach Grand Central," said LIRR President Helena Williams. "We also need funding for our state of good repair program and, most importantly, track reconfiguration and signal improvements in Jamaica, so that we can meet service demands for East Side Access. We have to be practical and put our resources where our priorities are and East Side Access is the number one priority for the LIRR."
Local mayors who were concerned about the impact a third track would have on their communities call the announcement a victory, although they remain cautious about whether the LIRR will reintroduce the plan in the future.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made a determination as to the plan they will pursue to increase air traffic and reduce delays in the five-state area of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. An informational meeting explained the measures intended to be used to mitigate noise at the various airports impacted by the changes. For those interested in learning more, the full report is posted on the Internet at www.faa.gov/nynjphl_airspace_redesign.
Democrat John Pinto, a North Merrick resident, officially announced his run for Assembly, challenging current Assemblyman Thomas McKevitt to represent New York's 17th Assembly District.
Pinto said the decision to enter the race stemmed from many factors, including his concern for families, particularly senior citizens, living in the district's communities.
"Many are living on fixed incomes and struggling to make ends meet," he said. "I'm equally concerned about an emerging dynamic of couples working three or more jobs just to maintain the quality of life they're accustomed to. How did we get to a place where an adult couple needs three incomes to survive? I'm also concerned about our young people who are exiting Long Island in record numbers because they can't find affordable housing in order to live and work in Nassau County."
In early May 2008, the Garden City community experienced numerous larcenies from autos parked in driveways overnight. Residents would return to their cars in the morning to find car windows shattered and property removed.
A joint investigation, initiated by detectives from the Garden City Police Department and Nassau County's Third Squad, ensued.
On the morning of July 3, Garden City Detectives Rothermel and Madden arrested David Murphy, 17, of Central Islip. Detectives were able to close 23 cases in Garden City and numerous others in the jurisdiction of Nassau County's Third Precinct. Murphy was charged with 10 felony counts of grand larceny as well as burglary, possession of burglar's tools and several larcenies from Nassau County Third Precinct cases. The MTA police also lodged a bench warrant for Murphy.
The Mayor's Committee Report on St. Paul's, presented at the July 17 board of trustees meeting, was later posted on the village's website along with the three appraisal reports. There is also a link that can be accessed in which you can write a comment to the mayor and board of trustees with regard to the report. The village website address is www.gardencityny.net.
The English translation of "al fresco" means in the fresh (air). And what better way to dine during the long, sun-filled days of summer? In Garden City, residents, visitors and even shoppers to the village's bustling downtown had plenty of restaurants to choose from this summer.
This past season, there were a total of 28 restaurants in Garden City offering this relaxing outdoor dining experience. The Garden City Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the outdoor dining project as a strategy to encourage shopping in Garden City's downtown. The chamber requested that the village change its code to allow outdoor dining by permit. In May 1997, the feature was officially implemented.
Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman released a 16-page report to provide taxpayers with a simplified, easy to follow look at the county's finances. "It's the right of all county taxpayers to know how their tax dollars are being spent," said Weitzman.
The report examined the county revenues against its expenses during the 2007 fiscal year that ended on Dec. 31, 2007. Although Weitzman pointed out Nassau County received 13 bond upgrades from February 2003 to June 2008, he said the county continued to face fiscal challenges including $3.4 billion in post-employment health benefits for county employees and retirees, reflected in the 2007 balance sheet.
Organizations or individuals who want copies of the report can download it directly from the Comptroller's website at: http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Comptroller/index.html or email the comptroller at NCComptroller@nassaucountyny.gov or call the office at 571-2386. The comptroller's office will mail out individual copies of the report on request.
The MTA considered fare increases of 8 percent on July 1, 2009 and another 5 percent on January 1, 2011 as part of its budget and financial plan for 2009-2012.
In a letter to MTA board chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger and MTA board members from MTA executive director and chief executive officer Elliot G. Sander, it was expressed that measures have to be taken to combat sobering developments in the MTA's financial plan.
The letter, which can be found on the MTA's website, mta.info, explained that declining real estate tax revenue and soaring fuel costs contributed to the financial challenges the MTA faces.
According to the MTA 2009 preliminary budget presentation, the MTA expects to close 2009 with a cash balance shortfall of $216 million deficit. Among the measures the MTA is considering is raising fares for transit riders including those who use the Long Island Rail Road and bridge and tunnel drivers.
Assemblyman Thomas McKevitt held his second annual 17th Assembly District Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony last month. "The women that we honor today represent some of the most courageous and accomplished individuals in the state and the nation. Together, their achievements and dedication have resulted in the continuous enjoyment of our community," stated McKevitt in his opening remarks.
He continued, "We are very lucky to have these women as our friends and neighbors. Special thanks should go to the families of our honorees who have allowed their loved ones to spend so much time caring for others.
"On behalf of all the residents of the 17th Assembly District and the state, I thank you for your hard work and tireless efforts and I look forward to working together to build an even better place to live, work and raise a family."
Village of Floral Park Trustee Mary-Grace Tomecki was the guest speaker and she expressed her thanks at being chosen for the position of "keynote" speaker. She gave an inspiring speech and ended with, "There is no glass ceiling and no limits as to what women can achieve today."
McKevitt introduced, one by one, the 2008 Women of Distinction, including Garden City residents Dr. Francisca Ariola-Hopkins, Lynn Anne Cipriani and Angela Heineman. His remarks follow:
Dr. Francisca Ariola-Hopkins
Acting as an attending physician at Winthrop-University Hospital for the past 36 years, Dr. Francisca Ariola-Hopkins has dedicated all of her time and effort into giving back to the Garden City community and taking care of the sick and needy. Dr. Ariola-Hopkins received her MD from U.S.T Medical School followed by her residency training in internal medicine at New York Hospital-Queens and training in psychiatry at numerous hospitals. She has also shown attendance at the New York School of Psychiatry and a fellowship from the Nassau Academy of Medicine. Dr. Ariola-Hopkins shows true leadership and is an asset to our community.
Angela Heineman has dedicated herself to making the education that her children and other children receive, the best that it possibly can be. As a working mother of two, Heineman has strived to raise the quality of education and has demonstrated great passion and loyalty. As a volunteer to be class mother and teacher at the Bible Study at St. Joseph's School, Heineman's selflessness has allowed children to meet higher expectations and has shown strong leadership skill. Most recently, she was elected to the Garden City Board of Education. Heineman's cheery disposition and strong-minded objectives will help lead community members in the right direction.
Lynn Anne Cipriani
As a distinguished humanitarian, leader, and caregiver Lynn Anne Cipriani has given herself selflessly to the people of our nation and those who need help the most. Cipriani devotes her time to aiding the struggle to eliminate poverty and homelessness nationwide. As an active member at the University of Florida, she jumped at the chance to join Habitat for Humanity where she provides invaluable service to the community members of Gainesville, Florida, assisted with the relief efforts in New Orleans, and was granted the opportunity to bike from Boston, MA to Santa Barbara, CA to help build funds and raise the awareness of poverty but also build homes for those who cannot afford them. Cipriani has not only demonstrated leadership and courage; she has shown dedication and a true spirit that those who follow her can look up to. Cipriani's sister, Marissa, accepted the award on her behalf.
Governor David A. Paterson signed legislation in August sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Alfano, Deputy Speaker Harvey Weisenberg and Senator Kemp Hannon that requires the Department of Health (DOH) to update the guidelines used by pediatricians to identify children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and refer them for appropriate services.
Alfano called the bill signing a tremendous step forward for children with autism. Joining Alfano and Weisenberg in sponsoring the legislation were Assemblymen Rob Walker and Tom McKevitt and Senator Chuck Fuschillo.
ASDs are developmental disabilities usually evident and typically diagnosed within the first years of life and often associated with mental retardation. Individuals with ASDs often have difficulty relating and responding to persons, events or objects, and engage in repetitive behaviors or exhibit preoccupation with narrow interests. The severity of these challenging behaviors varies considerably, resulting in multiple diagnoses along the autism spectrum. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ASDs affect one in every 150 children in some communities.
The bill requires DOH to establish best practice protocols for early screening of children for ASDs by pediatric primary care providers. These protocols would incorporate standards and guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics and must include: (1) the routine employment of objective ASD screening tools at regular intervals during critical childhood developmental stages; (2) facilitation of a dialogue between service provider and parents for purposes of educating the parents about ASDs, using a modified checklist for ASDs in toddlers; and (3) an appropriate referral mechanism for children who, based upon results of the screening process, require further evaluation. The bill also requires DOH to make the modified checklist for ASD available to the public on its website.
The Eastern Property Owners' Association (EPOA) launched a new website, www.gcepoa.org, with up-to-date information on all current issues facing the Incorporated Village of Garden City.
As the largest of Garden City's POAs-40 percent of the village population resides in the East-the EPOA believes that accurate, updated information and informed citizens are vital to maintaining good government.
Residents may submit questions and comments directly to the EPOA through its automated online system. The website's "Contact" section routes visitors' inquiries and/or opinions to the appropriate party, and trustees, officers and directors are a simple click away from various parts of the website.
A summary of the facts, current status and EPOA opinion on important issues facing the village are featured in the "Current Issues" section. A description of the EPOA's purpose and the names of all trustees, officers and directors are listed in the "About Us" section and "Membership" describes the benefits of joining the EPOA and an easy way to join. "Upcoming Events" provides an updated calendar of meetings of public interest and "Links" connects to other Web sites of interest, such as GC Village and the GC Public Schools. Current and past newsletters can be read in the "Newsletters" section. The entire website and its main page "Message Board" are updated frequently.
AvalonBay Communities conducted Open House Information Forums on its proposed plan to save and preserve the Main Building at St. Paul's in September. The Open House Information Forums were conducted over a two-day, two-week period on Sept. 10 and 16, in two sessions each day from 1-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. At the Open House Information Forums, individual information stations were set up on specific aspects of AvalonBay's St. Paul's plan.
In September, the Garden City Fire Department marked the seven year anniversary of the terrorist attacks with a September 11, 2001 Remembrance Ceremony at the village's 9/11 Memorial, which is located at the Village Green & Gazebo at the corner of Hilton and Stewart Avenues.
At a September board meeting, Trustee Tom Lamberti proposed to impose a $100 parking fee for tenants whose premises abut both municipal parking Field 5 (behind the medical center at 520 Franklin Avenue) and Fair Court (behind the premises on the south side of Old Country Road).
Trustee Lamberti argued, "I deplore the unfairness of charging our residents $100 for a permit to park at stations to commute into New York and not charge the same amount for employees who use our parking fields at the present time for free who have reserved space."
The proposal, however, was defeated 7-1.
While Garden City Chamber of Commerce officers, directors and members appreciated Trustee Lamberti's attempt to tap resources for the village, they vehemently opposed the proposal, stating that the additional fee for tenants - who they believe are already overburdened by both high real estate taxes and rents - was grossly unfair.
"Why make it more difficult to park in areas where parking is already limited?" Althea Robinson, parking/traffic committee co-chair, read from a letter she and chamber president Roger Eltringham sent to Mayor Peter Bee and trustees.
Garden City boasts more than 7,000 free parking spaces in municipal fields behind all business firms and public buildings in the village, plus an additional 3,423 free spaces in private fields within the central business district. Quite frankly, the chamber does not - nor will they ever, representatives said, envision a single parking meter in the village.
Surrounded by tattered yellow tape and covered with overgrown weeds, the former Texaco site at the corner of Seventh Street and Franklin Avenue is an eyesore in Garden City's downtown ever since the gas station moved its business further south on Franklin Avenue.
But that will change once property owner, Domus Green, LLC, moves closer to building a three-story structure to house retail space on the first floor and apartment units on the second and third floors.
The building will include 15,000 square feet of retail on the first floor and two floors of residential apartment units, seven units on each floor. A total of 25 on-site parking spaces will be provided for the residential units while shoppers to the new building will use Field 7N.
The Garden City Public Library Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Margaret A. Cincotta as the new director and welcomed her to the position, effective Oct. 13. Cincotta replaced Alan Roeckel, who officially retired in June 2008 after a long and successful career in Garden City.
Cincotta, who earned a bachelor's degree from Molloy College and a graduate degree in library science from C.W. Post, also earned an Advanced Certificate in Library Management from the University of North Texas. She brings more than 30 years of library experience and training to her new position.
While the vice presidential candidates duked it out in Missouri, another heated debate played out in the standing room only Garden City boardroom Oct. 2.
The topic: none other than the St. Paul's building. Some 150 residents came out in droves, some wearing T-shirts stating "No Way AvalonBay."
When Mayor Peter Bee attempted to curb the debate after 30 minutes, he was met with boos and shouting. "While I consider the St. Paul's issue to be a very important issue, in my opinion, we need to be focusing our attention on providing clean water, the HUB transportation issues, housing litigation, disposal of trash, the budget...There are a number of issues that are at least or more important than the St. Paul's issue and that is one of the reasons why this board has to get on to other business," he reasoned.
Trustee Tom Lamberti, chair of the Mayor's Committee on St. Paul's, which recommended to the full board that trustees move forward with the AvalonBay development proposal, disagreed. "A lot of people have come here tonight and I don't think it's appropriate for you to shut down the debate," he said. "This is a democracy. We may not like what people say but we have to give them the right to say it."
The debate ensued, giving Matt Whalen, AvalonBay's vice president of development, a chance to speak. "The amount of divisiveness that's created troubles our company and it troubles me, frankly. I think that we happen to agree with many of the opinions stated at this podium by people who don't support our proposal," Whalen, a Garden City resident himself, said.
In an effort to gauge public opinion to see what Garden City residents want for the historic St. Paul's Main Building, trustees authorized the village's four property owners' associations (POAs) to conduct an opinion poll - either collectively or individually.
Most residents favored the idea; after all it was a vote of the people that determined, back in 1993, the village acquire ownership of the historic property in the first place.
But angry residents - hostile at times - demanded trustees pose only one question to the community, "AvalonBay - yes or no," and stop using what some are calling fear tactics to swing a vote on the fate of St. Paul's in AvalonBay's favor.
Originally, trustees wanted residents to vote for one of two options - AvalonBay or demolition. Residents however thought it unfair to pose the two options in such a way because it, they believe, in essence, forced those who didn't want to see the building torn down to favor AvalonBay's plan for luxury residential units.
Trustees sought the public's input to determine whether or not the consensus was to move forward with the AvalonBay development, demolish the village icon and use the land for an agreed upon use down the road or continue paying $200,000 yearly to maintain the building as it currently stands. The third option was added after a lengthy - and sometimes heated - discussion Oct. 2.
At its annual fire prevention day and open house, the Garden City Fire Department unveiled a new, state-of-the-art, fire extinguisher training simulator that was obtained though a grant by Senator and Garden City resident Kemp Hannon.
The BullsEye training simulator represents the latest advancement in fire training technology. The simulator senses where the user aims and sweeps a laser training extinguisher and automatically varies LED driven digital flames in response. This allows the trainees to learn how to effectively use a fire extinguisher without the cost and cleanup associated with using dry chemical or CO2 extinguishers.
Alleging Deputy Mayor John Mauk screamed vulgarities at him during an executive session, Deputy Mayor Tom Lamberti told residents Oct. 16 he would not serve under John Mauk if he becomes mayor, which could happen as early as April 2009.
According to Garden City's longstanding Community Agreement, the Nominating Committee of each of the village's four property owners' associations brings forth a candidate for either trustee or mayor.
In this case, the Nominating Committee of the Estates Property Owners' Association - the section Mauk represents on the board - would have to bring him forth as its candidate for mayor. Anyone can then challenge the committee's nomination and run against Mauk in a consequent run-off election in the Estates section.
It has been public knowledge for years that the two gentlemen aren't the best of friends. But despite their disagreements Lamberti said he expects his fellow trustees, primarily made up of bankers and lawyers, to control their emotions when someone disagrees with them.
During tough economic times, who isn't looking for a bargain? This year's Long Island Restaurant Week (LIRW), held Nov. 2-9, was more anticipated than ever before. Long Island restaurants recognized the need to offer deals to locals. It was anticipated that 205 eateries, including Akbar restaurant, B.K. Sweeney's Uptown Grille, Calagero's restaurant, City Café, Legal Sea Foods and Rein Bar & Bistro at The Garden City Hotel in Garden City, took part this year.
Despite the uncertain economic climate, trustees passed a $2,601,500 bond resolution that would make overdue improvements to Garden City Village Hall, including the installation of an Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant elevator, police headquarters and the fire department's roof on Stewart Avenue. The elevator installation would require a building addition to village hall's current footprint.
"These projects have been before the board on a number of occasions ... and we are wrestling with the change in the economic climate. This is a time we have to consider even more carefully every expenditure of money and this is a big one," Mayor Peter Bee said.
Residents took issue with "11th hour" changes AvalonBay made to its development proposal for the St. Paul's Main Building Nov. 6. Deputy Mayor Tom Lamberti, chair of the Mayor's Committee on St. Paul's, which recommended to the full board of trustees AvalonBay's proposal, also voiced his dissent, telling AvalonBay Vice President Matt Whalen that he has "denigrated the process" and is going to have a difficult time trusting him from here on out.
Whalen and his team offered to the public a revised PowerPoint presentation that Whalen said resulted from residential feedback. "We have been listening," Whalen said. "This is a reintroduction of village enhancements based on residential feedback."
Garden City honored one of the last survivors of the infamous torpedoing of the SS Athenia on the first day of WW II during Veterans Day ceremonies. Barbara Wilson also served later in WW II with the Red Cross in England, France and Germany, working with bomber crews shot up over Germany. She is a longtime Garden City resident and former tennis champion of the Garden City Casino. Photo by Kyle Bradford Smith
Police Commissioner Ernest Cipullo announced that the Garden City Police Department equipped each police officer with a new safety tool called the ResQMe Auto Escape Tool. The tool is easy to carry because it is so small and is actually a key chain. Despite its size, the ResQMe Auto Escape Tool is an effective tool in rescuing occupants who are trapped inside a motor vehicle in the event of a vehicle fire or accident.
Commissioner Cipullo states, "The ResQMe Auto Escape Tool is actually two tools in one. It can be used to break a vehicle window and it can be utilized to cut a seatbelt."
The tool is designed to break a vehicle window by pushing it against the window with minimal force. The window will then break in a way that minimizes the chance of flying glass. The tool also contains a blade that can quickly cut through a seatbelt.
The long awaited ribbon cutting for Natural, located at 140 Seventh Street, took place Nov. 15. The food market, which officially opened for business Nov. 19, specializes in fresh and organic produce, along with many other specialties. It also boasts a sushi bar and frozen yogurt bar, offers fine cheeses and meats, wheat grass and fresh squeezed juices and more.
Owner Steven Park, however, doesn't want residents to mistake the store as strictly organic because of its name, Natural. He does sell conventional items, not just natural items, and carries a lot of specialty items, some gourmet, some high-end.
"We try to carry a little bit of everything. We believe there's a shoe for every foot so we definitely try to cater to all people," Park said.
It took five months to renovate the building, left vacant for years following the closing of the family-owned IGA Food Basket. "We totally gutted the place, it was just a vanilla box," Park said.
Many of Park's customers from Forest Hills who moved to Garden City remained loyal and still continued to shop in Queens. Park began taking the suggestion seriously when a customer tipped him off that a building on Seventh Street was vacant. He looked at the Garden City location and realized it had a full sized basement, just like the store in Forest Hills, but the parking was even better. "Parking is so hard to find in Queens," he said. "Within two weeks we signed a lease."
A steady stream of approximately 600 people per hour made their way into the Field House Dec. 2 to cast their vote in the highly anticipated, three-question St. Paul's opinion poll, jointly sponsored by the East and Estates property owners' associations (POAs).
Of the 5,002 residents that voted, 2,272 of them, or 45.4 percent, want the historic Main Building, along with Ellis Hall, demolished; 1,857 residents (37.1 percent) want to continue mothballing the building; and 873 people, or 17.5 percent, want AvalonBay to move ahead with their proposal for luxury apartments.
According to Village Clerk Brian Ridgway, there are approximately 7,200 households in the village, with a little more than 21,000 people and 16,000 registered voters.
Although the Central and West POAs opted out of the non-binding, village wide poll, they did mail surveys to their respective residents, asking them only one question - AvalonBay yes or no? Of the 572 households that responded to Central's survey, which makes up 40 percent of Central's total population of 1,434 households, 168 supported AvalonBay (29.4 percent) while 402 households (70.3 percent) did not. Two respondents returned the survey without stating a preference. Amplitude Research, Inc. out of Boca Raton, FL, conducted Central's survey and tallied the results.
In the West, as reported by West POA President Paul Muscarella, who said households were surveyed through personal contact, a mass emailing as well as a mass mailing, 25 responses favored AvalonBay while 206 did not. Muscarella noted that the association received a total of 231 responses.
Residents who bought homes in Garden City's historic Central section, which boasts large land plots and many curb-free streets, urged trustees to immediately place a moratorium on pending requests to subdivide two properties in the heart of the village, one on Hilton Avenue and the other on Rockaway Avenue.
There are currently two subdivision requests before the village - one at the corner lot at Fourth Street and Rockaway Avenue and another at on Hilton Avenue.
Building Department liaison and deputy mayor, Tom Lamberti, who represents the Central section, told both gentlemen that he appreciates their seeking a moratorium but said facts are first needed, along with an opinion of counsel.
He believes all plots capable of subdivision under current zoning must be identified, essentially an inventory from the Building Department; a planner engaged to determine what steps could be taken to prevent this from happening; and an opinion of counsel sought to ensure such steps are appropriate.
Dr. Steven Chu, a 1997 Nobel Prize recipient in physics and graduate of Garden City High School, was named as President-elect Barack Obama's choice for energy secretary. Steven Chu grew up in Garden City, the community selected by his parents for "the quality of the public school system," Chu wrote in a recent autobiography.
"We are delighted to hear of Dr. Chu's nomination," Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen said, "and we deeply appreciate the words of commendation he used to describe the education he received in Garden City. We hope Dr. Chu's accomplishment will be an inspiration to our students."
More information can be found on the Nobel website, http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1997/chu-autobio.html.
Mayor Peter Bee and Santa (Larry Nedelka, past fire chief) get ready to light the village trees Dec. 7 as Trustees Gerard Lindquist and John Mauk look on along with George L. Engelke, Jr., chairman and CEO, Astoria Federal Savings, sponsor and Roger Eltringham, president of the Chamber of Commerce.
Deputy Mayor John Mauk announced in December that he does not want to preside as Garden City mayor. The post, come March, would be his, but he does not want the role because he admitted he wouldn't be able to devote the significant amount of time it would take to serve effectively. Moreover, he said he also does not want to preside over the demolition of St. Paul's, if that is in fact what becomes of the historic icon.
"Being mayor requires significant dedication and devotion of time," he said. "After fully assessing the requirements of the job, I concluded that I would not be able to give the position the attention it rightly deserves ... I also do not wish, as mayor, to preside over the demolition of the building," he added, referring to St. Paul's.
Instead, he intends to continue serving the village as trustee and has, in turn, encouraged fellow trustee, Rob Rothschild, who also represents the Estates, to seek the post.
"Rob deserves the widespread support of the residents in the Estates nominating process and in the village-wide elections next March," Deputy Mayor Mauk said.
Rothschild, who's lived in Garden City since 1983, first began serving as trustee in 2003. He proved victorious in a 2007 runoff election against John DeMaro when his POA Nominating Committee brought forth DeMaro as their pick for trustee; Rothschild, who was currently serving, challenged that nomination and won.