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Mayor’s Report: April 5, 2013

In compliance with the term limit provision of our revered Community Agreement, my term as mayor ended on April 1. It has been both an honor and privilege to serve the residents of Garden City in the capacity of mayor during the past two years.

When a mayor assumes office, he has no idea what challenges lie ahead. As of this writing, and in advance of this year’s budget sessions, the trustees voted to lay off paid firefighters and are now considering additional employee layoffs.  Never in the history of this great village have we sacrificed our labor force to meet our budget needs by means other than attrition. My feeling has been that cuts must be achieved in ways that do not affect the safety of our community, services to our residents, and the quality of life we have come to know and expect, however, I am still optimistic that these layoffs can be averted.

Another challenge to the village was the extraordinary weather phenomena that brought us Tropical Storm Irene during the summer of 2011. The horrific damage inflicted to our beautiful trees and village coupled with the loss of electricity for about one week was unimaginable and could not get worse - or so we believed. Our worst fears were realized one year later when Super Storm Sandy inflicted damage to our region beyond what we could ever comprehend or had seen before.

On the night Sandy hit, we saw the home at 24 Kenwood Rd. disappear from our Village due to an explosion from a ruptured gas line caused by an uprooted tree.  Miraculously, the 87-year old homeowner survived with some assistance from concerned neighbors. The storm wreaked major damage to our natural and financial resources—thankfully without any loss of life—causing the demise of upward of a thousand beautiful stately trees, both village and resident owned, some dating back to the early part of the last century. The financial impact of the cleanup and restoration—totaling millions of dollars—is still not fully realized.  While it was necessary to withdraw funds from our reserve to restore our village we have requested reimbursement of up to 87.5 percent from both the federal and state governments. In the meantime, we can only hope and pray that we are not confronted with another major catastrophe that overloads our resources.

During the crippling conditions following Irene and Sandy, we witnessed dedication and loyalty from our village employees that far exceeded our expectations. Despite the fact that our employees experienced the same horrific effects of the storm in their personal lives, virtually everyone reported to work to help us return to normal as rapidly as possible.

Our employees performed Herculean efforts removing downed trees, clearing roadways, and other obstructions, working late into the night for many weeks. Many residents, relieved by the painstaking efforts, took the time to express their gratitude for these extraordinary and expeditious efforts.

In addition to all our employees, I must also take this opportunity on behalf of all our residents to extend a sincere thank you to Patricia and Bob Kaliban and Vincent Muldoon of Old World Quality Corp. for funding and repairing the Tropical Storm Irene damage to the roof and clock tower of St. Paul’s without any cost to the village.

Following the damage to the St. Paul’s clock tower, I requested the renowned Verdin Clock Company—at no cost to the village—provide an estimate for a four-sided illuminated clock. The restoration of the clock tower with a night illuminated clock and a bell interface to toll the hour, if desired, would have cost $52,000, which is about the cost of two village-wide recreation surveys. Unfortunately, five trustees rejected the idea. However, an alternative source of funding would be to request a donation of about $8 from each household in the village. The restored clock tower would be a beacon in the night, visible from numerous parts of the village similar to the lighted cupola at the Garden City Hotel.  Despite the rejection, I am hopeful that this still may be achieved, giving renewed life to this historic village landmark.

I remind the new board of trustees to keep in mind that I asked the developers of the new Doubleday condominium to donate their sales office/model apartment structure on Franklin Avenue to the village after it has served their purpose, to which they agreed. The sales office structure presently located on Franklin Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets could be relocated to one of our village-owned properties and used for any number of purposes.

I implore the trustees to do everything in their power to preserve St. Paul’s. While I am cognizant of the unfavorable position of some residents, I remind them that the majority of residents who voted, voted against demolition by a three to one vote. As a member of the executive board of the Village Officials Association, I have been repeatedly told by other Nassau County officials that they wish their village had a similar historic building to restore and preserve. Please keep in mind that if the building is demolished it could never be replaced as it is truly a unique historic architectural icon not able to be replicated or even found elsewhere in this region.

In closing, I commend Village Administrator Robert Schoelle and the entire executive staff without whom Garden City would not be “Garden City” for their untiring commitment in keeping it a premier place to raise our families.

Thank you all for your faith and trust in me.