Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 13 August 2010 00:00
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is proposing to consolidate administrative functions of the Sixth and the Second Police Precincts and move the Sixth Precinct headquarters to the Second Precinct location in Woodbury. The county executive says that the plan would save over $20 million and would not diminish police service. However, many local public officials are firm in their view that residents would suffer. Additionally, there is still the question as to whether or not Mr. Mangano can order this consolidation without approval of the Nassau County Legislature.
In a lengthy conversation with the Great Neck Record, Mr. Mangano said that he is working to decrease the county’s $286 million deficit. So far, he told the Record, he has reduced this deficit by $39 million, but “more needs to be done … it’s time to fix structural problems … and we can save by consolidating management and duplicities.” The goal is to “maintain services and reduce costs.”
According to Mr. Mangano, his proposal, which includes 125 fewer police officers (achieved by not replacing retiring police officers), will not affect police service in the Sixth Precinct. He says that “residents will see no change” in regard to “policing” and patrol cars. The Sixth Precinct will remain the Sixth Precinct, serving the same residents. The Sixth Precinct office on Community Drive in Manhasset will remain, still staffed with police.
The current Sixth Precinct location will see “the same level of police at the station,” according to the county executive, and the station will still have an ambulance service, refueling for police vehicles, offices where residents and public officials can meet with police officers, and walk-in services such as fingerprinting. Commanding officers will still be available at the Sixth Precinct location and a patrol supervisor will be on duty 24/7. The Sixth Precinct will also still have communication dispatchers and the same detectives will still report to duty and patrol the local streets. “Our highest priority is to maintain the same policing,” Mr. Mangano said.
However, the administrative functions of the Sixth Precinct will move to the Woodbury location of the Second Precinct. Mr. Mangano said that the “higher ranking” police officers, the administrators, are the ones who will move to Woodbury and the administrative jobs are the ones that will be consolidated. He stated that the police caseloads to be handled in Woodbury for the two precincts “would still be less in this area than for the first, third or fifth precincts.”
Mr. Mangano said that the story of the consolidation “leaked” out last Friday. He had not wanted to release the proposal until September, “when people are back from vacation.” The proposal is part of the county executive’s 2011 budget initiative and “not a finished plan.”
When asked about informing the public, Mr. Mangano said that he will have public discussions. As for the Nassau County Legislature, some legislators are firm in their belief that this consolidation cannot take place without a vote of approval from the legislature. Mr. Mangano stated that he does “not want to cut out legislators.” He said that he will be “responsive and open.”
On the other hand, Great Neck’s Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth (10th District) told the Record: “As the Nassau County legislator for the 10th L.D., I was understandably surprised and disappointed at not having been informed of any detail of the proposed merger.” Legislator Bosworth said that “This proposal raises many questions and concerns in terms of how it will affect the people of Great Neck, Manhasset and North Hills who do not have their own police forces … We need to insist on getting more details about this plan so that the villages and communities affected can assess what the potential impact may be.”
Legislator Bosworth stated that, even though the county executive has said that he does not need legislative approval for this consolidation, “the County Charter seems to indicate otherwise … and it is my understanding that in order for precincts to be merged, the police commissioner needs to recommend this, and the board of supervisors, now known as the County Legislature, needs to approve it.”
For Legislator Bosworth, “This just seems to be another attempt by the new administration to circumvent the County Legislature once again.” Stating that she was “elected to represent” the residents, Ms. Bosworth is firm that there must be “a forum for legislators, mayors and community leaders to discuss a proposal of this magnitude, which has the potential to impact the safety and well-being of county residents.”
Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, speaking to the Record along with the county executive, said that the county executive’s plan to consolidate the Sixth and Second precincts would actually “put people back out on the streets.” Commissioner Mulvey said that there would be less administrative work, “less desk duty,” and that the Second Precinct would “double up … and still have less work than other precincts.”
Stating that “big cuts start at the top,” Commissioner Mulvey said that he “does not want to jeopardize public safety” and that the consolidation “will not jeopardize response time.” He said that out of all of the options “this makes the most sense.”
Conversely, Police Benevolent Association President James Carver told the Record that the PBA is “vehemently opposed to the proposal to consolidate the precincts” because the group thinks that it would have a negative impact on services. He added that to have a skeleton crew at the Sixth Precinct would diminish the role of a police station as a “safe haven.” When asked if he or anyone from the PBA had had any input into the decision, he said that they were informed about the decision at a meeting of three precincts and the county executive. Mr. Carver said, “We found out when Newsday found out…we were sandbagged.”
Mr. Carver did note that former county executive Thomas Suozzi had proposed condensing eight precincts into five precincts several years ago and he said that at the time there was a legal determination that the county executive could not do such a thing without the approval of the county legislature.
North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman already had a meeting scheduled with local public officials the day after the Record’s deadline. Supervisor Kaiman told the Record that: “Our concern, the town’s concern, is that we don’t know how this will impact our community and there has been no discussion with us in regard to the plan or the long-term consequences.”
For Supervisor Kaiman, his immediate goal is ” to bring all of our various officials within our community together to start a dialogue with each other and with the county, so that everyone can better understand what this is all about.”
The two busiest villages in Great Neck, Great Neck Plaza with its busy business/shopping district, and the Village of Great Neck with the largest number of residents and the most diverse zoning districts, were both contacted by the Record. Neither village has its own police force, although four Great Neck villages each do have a police force.
Plaza Mayor Jean Celender stated: “While the specific details of the county executive’s plans are not known, the proposed consolidation of the Sixth Precinct into the Second can only lead to diminished responsiveness by the police to the public safety issues of Great Neck Plaza.” Mayor Celender added that “The loss of this local precinct will result in the likelihood that commanding officers in Woodbury will not be as knowledgeable of our needs and the means to address them.” She said that “The proposed move is not worth the claimed potential savings and it may have a significant impact on the police service provided to Great Neck Plaza.”
Village of Great Neck Mayor Ralph Kreitzman told the Record that he too is upset at this surprise news and is equally concerned with the safety of his residents. “Like everyone else I’m upset that this was sprung on the public with no discussion or input from the people affected,” Mayor Kreitzman said, adding “I am all in favor of saving money for our residents, but never at the expense of critical services such as public safety.”
An interesting aside, Mayor Kreitzman noted: “So that people can visualize one dramatic change this combination would achieve —- Manhattan is just two miles further away from our village hall than our new precinct headquarters would be.”
Village of Great Neck Trustee Mark Birnbaum, who also serves as the village’s public safety commissioner, told the Record: “I am extremely concerned … to make a public statement where it is a fait accompli to eliminate a local police precinct without consulting with local officials at a time when our residents are so concerned about safety and quality of life issues, shows a disregard for the concerns of the residents and constituents.” Mr. Birnbaum added that “When our village residents question why we don’t have our police department, to eliminate our precinct makes it so much more difficult for us as elected officials to respond effectively to our constituents.”
Village of Great Neck Plaza Deputy Mayor Ted Rosen, a retired member of the Nassau County Auxiliary Police (former chief of the Great Neck Central unit), said that, although he can “appreciate the need to reduce governmental expenses, this is not the way.” Mr. Rosen added: “Even assuming that the proposed consolidation would not result in a reduction of the police patrols on the street, the real problem will be responsiveness to the needs of the local villages by the precinct.” He said that if his village has to deal with commanding officers in Woodbury rather than in Manhasset, “I am concerned that their knowledge of our needs and their ability to respond to our needs will be significantly inferior to what it is presently.” For Mr. Rosen, “the proposed plan is not worth the claimed, potential savings.”
Village of Saddle Rock Mayor J. Leonard Samansky said that, with the Woodbury precinct so far away, “The proposal gives rise to many questions concerning the safety of the residents of Great Neck and the effect of such a merger.” Mayor Samansky said that he has worked with Commissioner Mulvey for a long time and that he does “know his commitment to public safety and law enforcement.” Mayor Samansky also said that “I also know that in my discussions with County Executive Mangano that he too takes the protection of our residents very seriously.” For Mayor Samansky, “The merger proposal requires detail and analysis before any conclusions should be drawn and I look forward to discussion and consideration of the effects both negative and positive before any final decision is reached.”