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Pictured: Sitting front row: Rita Eredics, attorney; Lee Temares, acting secretary; Barbara Feldman, A Nu Start; and Chamber President Nancy Morris, State Farm Insurance, Nancy Morris Agency. Standing back row: Leland McAllister, Allstate Insurance Co., McAllister Agency; Dr. Lila Abbate, PT, DPT, OCS; Richard Dundore; Diane Harragan, Coach Realty; Vincent Stempion, Stempion Financial Services; District Attorney Kathleen Rice; TJ Costello, Hierarchy Architects; Katie Miller, CSM; Jo-Anne Behal, Performance Development Solutions, LLC; CJ Coleman, Coleman-Pension.com; Ed Wassmer, Young's Fine Wines and Spirits. Photo by Steve Trachtman

Good news at the March chamber of commerce meeting. This summer the hanging baskets on Plandome Road will once again be real blossoms and the town is on board to keep them watered. Hopefully, they will be lining Plandome Road for the Memorial Day Parade. Alexander Otis, owner of Manhasset Florist and Greenhouse, 25 Orchard Street, will be supplying the flowers for the baskets. "It's the only greenhouse left in town. Andersons Greenhouses used to be behind St. Mary's but it's gone, "Otis said.

Concerning regular business, the very popular Business Card Exchange is planned for April 23. Glen Corbett, HSBC Bank, Marion Staincamp, Town and Country Flowers and Rae Dowling are attending to details. The speaker will discuss web design and productivity.

The chamber "Welcome to Manhasset" sign on the corner of Community Drive and Northern Boulevard was down and President Morris needed a volunteer to gather estimates for a new one.

Wachova Bank on Plandome Road was represented at the meeting and while networking, Wachova employee Audrey Kerwin noted that in a recent edition of Barrons Wachovia was listed 16th out of the 25 most reputable banks. New member Dr. Lila Abbate, PT, DPT, OCS, is located at 75 Plandome Road. Jo-Anne Sutton Behal promoted her Extraordinary Self Program and noted an upcoming start date in Manhasset is April 14, www.empowermentforall.com.

District Attorney Kathleen Rice was the guest speaker at the March chamber meeting and spoke about how law enforcement initiatives can impact quality of life, and, therefore, the business community. She cited successful initiatives in her administration and fielded questions.

Rice said as local business owners it is important to know what the DA is doing "to support your efforts, address your concerns and encourage small businesses to open."

Then she referenced 60 Minutes and the segment on driving and DWI when they noted there is an epidemic across the country and focused on what the DA did in Nassau County to raise awareness of an issue claiming lives on the roadways. It was a positive story and Rice said, "It was a big deal."

Rice said she has fought for and passed legislation to prosecute the worst of the worst of drunken drivers and in the process, in a positive way, put Nassau County on the map.

"When I ran I said I'd root out public corruption," she said, "and that was in 2005 and the big story then was the Roslyn School District scandal." She added that it was an example of just how bad corruption had gotten that it seeped into our institutions. "It showed where there is opportunity, motive, and money that is the recipe for corruption-just look at the Madoff case." Rice said she is determined to bring a sense of accountability back to the system.

She said she made one of their biggest corruption cases with the TONH Building Department, where to get work done there were two lines: one line that played by the rules and a second, much quicker line, that knew someone or paid to have their work expedited. "We cannot tolerate that kind of corruption," she said.

Rice said they now plea bargain fewer cases, do not plea bargain violent felony offenders or murderous home invasions. And, she noted, they are convicting more.

The DA's office does affect business, she claimed, and cited an initiative in Hempstead that worked. In the heart of the town for a six block area there was an open-air drug market causing residents to be virtually held hostage. "We were told people would not let their children walk to school and they slept in bathtubs hoping that would protect them from stray bullets."

There was a need for unorthodox approaches, Rice said, and they partnered with the community, religious leaders, police department and the mayor. All helped identify the drug dealers. After determining who was addicted and who was selling to put food on the table, they were given a one-time chance to choose to go straight or go to jail.

One year later after following a zero tolerance policy, Rice said there was an 87 percent reduction in the number of drug offenses and a 10 percent reduction in violent crime. "We coordinated public services already in place," said the DA, "used lifelines our taxes were already supporting."

People need jobs that can support their families, Rice said, and without jobs some may drift into a life of crime. Rice acknowledged there are four reasons for crime: employment, drugs, poverty and lack of education. If you lower any one cause, there is a reduction in crime, she said.

Rice sees her speaking engagements as a way to reach her constituents and hear their concerns. A way, she said, to get the business and personal perspective to better perform her job. The DA then fielded questions from the audience.

There was a question on the Bloomberg administration's gun buyback program. Interestingly, Rice said, there are no gun manufacturers in New York. Nassau County, she continued, ran a gun buyback program before Thanksgiving 2008 that was very successful getting guns off the street. The county paid $200 per gun turned in, no questions asked. Occurring as it did before Thanksgiving and the holidays, the timing was good for a cash payout. Four locations, no questions, anonymity-400 guns were turned in.

The program, she acknowledged, will be repeated-and at no cost to taxpayers. Forfeiture money is used. Rice claimed, "We can seize ill-gotten goods. In a Queens drug bust we confiscated $230,000 and it is legitimate for the DA, police and law enforcement to keep it."

Members felt strongly the need to address people who serve alcohol to underage kids. Noted was Long Beach where one must be 21 to drink and underage drinkers are arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. There was agreement that most communities can identify one house where kids congregate, where those parents make life and death decisions for other parent's children. There is awareness in Manhasset of the problem. Governor Paterson wants to permit 1,900 grocery stores to sell wine. Many members agreed underage drinking is not just about permissive parents, every kid knows the one store where he/ she can purchase liquor. Under Paterson's proposal purchasing liquor by underage drinkers will be far easier.

Now, every town has empty stores. Chamber discussions often revert to how to drive the community to local businesses-no one wants those empty buildings. Chamber members complained the Town of North Hempstead building process took too long for many of them to get up and running.

The DA was asked, "Are there any special initiatives to streamline opening a business?"

Rice said Nassau County has not developed into a "sanctuary city." As a county, she said, there is no comprehensive immigration policy, rather, it is a federal policy. When they arrest illegals they inform federal authorities, she explained. "We detain them in Nassau County after which they go into the federal system." People register their cars, and, when the insurance runs out, continue to drive. It is a felony to drive without a license. However, unable to afford insurance, and needing transportation, many embrace the law of averages and take a chance. Because power of attorney is often misused is there any policy on it? The problem is not any different in Nassau County than other places, the DA said, adding there are 45 investigators in the District Attorney's office. Both the old and young are preyed upon because they are vulnerable. She said sexual predators have a 100 percent conviction rate. The Criminal Complaints Bureau in Mineola receives complaints on anything, than investigators work up the case. The DA said it is white-collar crime that one is more likely to be affected by on a day-to-day basis.

Mary Mehaffey, assistant to the commissioner of parks, and Warren Schein, deputy commissioner, discussed some recreational opportunities in the town. Manorhaven Pool is undergoing major renovation and this summer is considering events such as a moonlight swim under the stars and reintroduction of the Friday Sock Hop which was very popular six to seven years ago. Anthony's World of Floors has sponsored such events, more sponsors are sought, and banners providing advertising for sponsors are displayed at events.

Mehaffey said that the chamber had traditionally been one of the supporters for each concert in the popular series of summer Concerts in the Park on the Mary Jane Davies Green on Plandome Road. She mentioned there are various sponsorship opportunities, which are great advertising venues. Chamber President Nancy Morris agreed. Over the years, she has been one of the sponsors for a concert and said it is a good advertising opportunity. Warren Schein spoke about the parks in general, and the April 24 opening of The Producers in Herricks.

There are about 40 parcels of parks in the Town of North Hempstead, he said, and a member asked about the progress at Plandome Pond Park in Plandome Heights.

The next regular meeting will be Tuesday, April 7.


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