Emotions remain high nearly a week after a raucous Garden City village board meeting at which trustees voted to lay off six firefighters and demote one officer. With the standing-room-only crowd of residents and firefighter families spilling into the hallway of village hall at the Thursday evening meeting, the board voted 6-2 to make the cuts, in an effort to save more than $900,000.
“The model we need is to have eight [firefighters] during the day, eight during the night, and a vacation relief guy for nights and days, plus three on disability. That’s 21, and now we have 26 plus five,” Deputy Mayor/Fire Commissioner John Watras told the board. “We’re actually going down to 21 and four, but we really have 18 firefighters that are available to show up.”
Before Morris Moinian’s Manhattan-based Fortuna Realty Group purchased the Garden City Hotel from the Nelkin Family in June 2012, rumors ran rampant. There was hearsay of Donald Trump entering the bidding fray while others wondered aloud about the fate of the long-serving staff. In the subsequent months, news about the hotel was scarce although announcements were made about more than 90 percent of employees getting rehired after reapplying for their jobs. Other news included the hiring away from Hilton Hotels of J. Grady Colin to be the hotel’s new general manager and that a new full-service spa would open in 2014.
On Jan. 30, the Garden City Chamber of Commerce hoped to dispel some of the mystery and intrigue that’s been hovering over this iconic landmark when its 2013 kickoff luncheon was hosted at the hotel itself. The turnout was healthy for this event whose theme was “The Garden City Hotel: What Lies Ahead? ” and guest speakers were Fortuna Realty Group Head of Acquisitions and Asset Management Ashish Lall and Colin.
Three Garden City Property Owners’ Associations ran run-off elections on Tuesday, Jan. 29 due to unprecedented challenges by two residents and a current trustee.
Garden City operates under a non-political form of government called the Community Agreement, with origins dating back to 1919. The mayor and board of trustees, as well as members of various boards and commissions, are village residents who are nominated by four POAs (Western, Estates, Central and Eastern) and serve without compensation. This is a typically unchallenged process, though the last two years have resulted in challenges and run-off elections.
The incumbents, in both the mayoral and two trustee elections garnered the winning number of votes and will be on the official village election ballot in March.
John Watras, of the Western run-off, received 206 votes while Larry Quinn earned 103 votes. In the Estates trustee election, John DeMaro secured 335 votes versus the 208 Greg Blair received. In the Eastern trustee run-off Dennis Donnelly earned 441 votes while Francine Ryan garnered 236 votes.
John Watras, though pleased with the results, said that the election was all about fiscal responsibility and doing the right thing for the town, seniors and all residents to preserve the villages’ traditions and enhance new ideas.
The Garden City schools will be getting more in state aid this year as a result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed aid package, but district officials say the increase would be small and budget woes remain large.
Under Cuomo’s plan the district would see its 2012-13 state aid rise from $4,242,218 to a proposed $4,267,293, a .59 percent increase or $25,075. According to Dr. Robert Feirsen, the schools superintendent, the amount would barely make a dent with Garden City’s school monetary woes.
Is it the combo in the corner playing the kind of music that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack to the Buena Vista Social Club as a scantily-clad lass and her sharply-dressed partner dance a mean merengue? Or maybe it’s the older gentleman in a crisp white shirt and fedora effortlessly rolling cigars while waitstaff shuttle mojitos to the assorted guests? Perhaps it’s the décor of high archways and ceilings, where fans lazily rotate, and the room features mossy green wallpaper adorned with lush palm fronds? Or it may even be the black and white portrait of the late Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball that shows the daffy redhead holding a banner that reads Havana. And while you may be wondering if you’re still in Garden City, in truth, you’ve entered Havana Central, a restaurant that evokes pre-Castro Cuba in its design, cuisine and ambience.
The man behind this explosion of Latin flavor is restaurant founder/ CEO Jeremy Merrin, who was hosting a ribbon cutting for what is now the fourth location in his string of restaurants. With the others being in Times Square, uptown near Columbia University and in Yonkers, this is Merrin’s first foray into Long Island. Located in the old Modells space at the Roosevelt Field Mall, this new eatery is just the latest addition to what’s quickly becoming a de facto restaurant row. The difference that separates Havana Central from its neighbors is that this is a sophisticated way of presenting Cuban culture while serving food that is rooted in the simplicity of both ingredients and preparation. It’s all part of the lifelong love affair Merrin has had with the Latin way of life that inspired him to open his first restaurant in 2002.
These are the four dishes handpicked by Executive Chef Stanley Licairac as being the best on the Havana Central menu:
Pernil Asado - Due to the volume, if we were to make it the traditional way that you would with a pork shoulder, we wouldn’t get the amount of meat out of it to feed the masses. It would [contain] a lot more fat. So we use a pork butt and even with that, we don’t get that much yield out of it. But it comes out to be a much better dish to be able to feed the masses and gives them an introduction to Latin cuisine.
Stewart Manor Mayor James Kelly and Deputy Mayor Robert C. Fabio said they will not seek re-election at upcoming village elections March 19.
Kelly, who also served on the board as a trustee from 2001 to 2007, said that while he was proud of what the board has accomplished during his tenure, “I will not be abler to invest the time and effort required due to personal and professional obligations.”
On Saturday, Jan. 12, the Tanner Pond Environmental Center/Garden City Bird Sanctuary commemorated its Fifth Annual Winterfest.
A self-created holiday meant to retell the story of the bird sanctuary and honor those who have donated trees in honor of someone else and those whom they were planted for, this event also represents hope and renewal in the dead of winter.
It’s no secret that the Garden City Union Free School District and Garden City High School are ranked among the best in the country. Ninety-nine percent of the Class of 2012 students are attending college and graduating with a Regents Diploma, with 81 percent of those graduates earning diplomas with Advanced Designation. While many factors can be attributed to these impressive statistics, the strongly held belief that a strong arts and music program is a crucial element of this success according to residents.
Look no further than the recent ribbon cutting celebrating the completion of the $10.5 million expansion and renovations of Garden City High School. The money was a chunk of the $36.5 million school investment bond and energy performance resolution passed by taxpayers in 2009. According to the school administration, a weak economy, low interest rates and a limited number of plan modifications had the estimated expenditure of the project drop to $33.9 million as of December 2012, resulting in the district saving an estimated $2.6 million. As far as New York State Education Department Regents Member Roger Tilles is concerned, it’s money well spent.
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