Three candidates have announced they will be running for the seat being vacated by Massapequa Park Mayor George Nussbaum, who will not be running for re-election in March. Village Deputy Mayor Scott Wiss; local attorney and counsel for the village planning commission, Camillo Giannattasio and life-long resident Rocco Dionisio are all looking to gain voters' confidence in the upcoming election.
Wiss, who has been a trustee since November 1995, will be running under the Village Integrity Party line with Trustee Lucy Agovino and Vice President of the zoning board of appeals Harry Jacobson.
Giannattasio has joined with former mayor and Massapequa School Board Trustee Robert Thompson and Bob Lilcox, a member of the zoning appeals board to form the Your Village Party. Lilcox and Thompson will be running for trustee positions.
In response to his frustration over feeling as if village officials were unresponsive to residents' needs, Dionisio, a butcher in Massapequa Park, decided to launch his own campaign for the seat. He teamed up with trustee candidates Daniel Scarisbrick, a claims service representative for GEICO Insurance and Bruce Farco, an electrician for Columbia Hospital in Manhattan, to create the Working Class Party.
Meanwhile, Wiss referred to his experience on the current village board and the relationships he's developed over the years with officials on all levels of government as just a couple of the things that make him the strongest candidate on the ballot.
Despite his relatively young age, Wiss, 33, said, he has had a wealth of experience under his belt and has been working quietly and diligently behind the scenes for years to hone the skills he wants to put into practice as mayor.
"I always wanted to be involved as a civil servant, I always wanted to give back to the community and be dedicated to ensuring that we have a great quality of life and that my children have a great place to grow up," said Wiss, who added that it has been a lifelong dream to be mayor of the village where he was born and raised.
An attorney with offices in Manhattan and Massapequa, Wiss said he also has strong working relationships with government officials which would be beneficial if he were elected.
"I understand how to get things done," he said. "I have relationships I've developed over many, many years with all the elected officials in the state, county, town and the federal government who I can work with to better accomplish things on behalf of the village. In other words, if I need something done from the state, I make a phone call and I get cooperation."
According to Wiss, who was a prosecuting attorney for the village from 1992-'95, the fact that he is currently on the board is also an advantage, saying that he understands what residents' concerns and needs are.
"I'm on the board now, I'm one of the people who has been working with the village to shape the policy and get things accomplished," he said.
The youngest trustee yet. Wiss said he believes he can relate not only to young families just starting out, but seniors and middle-aged residents as well.
"I feel that I understand what the majority of the people who live in our village need," he said. "We have to be more and more receptive to the newer people, people who are moving in with children. You also have to continue to provide excellent service for the senior citizens, the middle-aged people. You have to be all inclusive of everybody."
Among the things Wiss said he would like to accomplish if elected, is to rebuild the village's infrastructure including addressing drainage problems, as well as rebuilding roads.
Wiss said he has a plan for the village he calls the year 2000 plan. "It constitutes revitalizing the downtown business areas, putting in nice new brick sidewalks, redoing some of the buildings, and putting in old, antique style lighting," he said. "I also want to try to develop a special section of the government just to deal with residents' problems without them having to be transferred around to a few different sections to get the problem resolved."
Giannattasio, meanwhile, also believes his years of work experience makes him the perfect candidate. Having worked within village government in a number of ways including serving as a trustee from 1981 to 1985, Giannattasio said he believes he's highly qualified to fill the position of mayor and thinks it's the perfect time to re-enter the political arena.
The 49-year-old attorney said he has spent the better part of his life preparing for this opportunity and Nussbaum's upcoming departure from the position was the green light he needed.
"I would not be running against George if were seeking re-election; I would have been as supportive of Mr. Nussbaum as I have been for years," he said.
Giannattasio is not new to village government. Before serving as a trustee, he also served for a year as counsel to the board of zoning appeals. He lost his re-election run for trustee in 1985 and lost a run for village judge, to Harvey Schneider in 1987.
But, according to Giannattasio, he's always has had his eye on village government and working with the planning commission keeps him well-appraised of what's going on in Massapequa Park.
He also believes the skills he has obtained working as a practicing attorney make him particularly qualified for the job.
"What I do best is being a good lawyer and being a good lawyer to me is solving problems for your clients. I think government at this level is problem solving for the residents and that's what I do best," said Giannattasio, who has a real estate/ business law practice in Massapequa. "That's what I've been doing for the last 25 years."
While, Giannattasio praises Nussbaum for the job he did as mayor, he said he and his running mates have a few ideas of their own of what they'd like to see done if elected.
One of the first things on the list, he said, would be to simplify the building codes and update village laws that might be outdated. For example, Giannattasio said, he does not think that people should have to get a variance to erect six foot fences in their backyards where they won't block the views of drivers and pedestrians.
"If I'm elected mayor, I'd like to set up a blue ribbon committee to review all of the current village laws. It'll be a herculean task but I want to recodify them, reorganize them," he said.
He also would like to reorganize the court system to make it more accessible to residents by expanding the court calendar by an extra evening a month to handle just building code violations, he said. This, he explained, would give people an opportunity to tell their side of the story without having to take time off from work.
Dionisio, a 37-year-old father of two, on the other hand, questions both Giannattasio and Wiss' ability to implement any changes that would really be a benefit to residents.
"Where I work, I hear a lot of complaints and moaning about the way the village is being run. A lot of people are looking for a change," said Dionisio, who works at Tom and Sons Quality Meats on Front St. "And the two people who are running in are all old school and we're hoping to put a little new blood with a new enthusiasm, a younger train of thought toward where Massapequa Park should be going."
Dionisio's decision to run came after the heated Jan. 11 village public meeting where a number of angered residents came to voice their dismay over property damage caused by torrential rains and the resulting floods. After becoming frustrated with what he and his neighbors believed to be an unwillingness on the part of the village to address or rectify the problem, he teamed up with Working Class Party running mates, Farco and Scarisbrick to make a run for office. The fact that they are new to the political arena, he said, does not intimidate them.
"We have an enthusiasm about the position, we have a commitment to Massapequa Park and basically we're tired of the way things have been run over the past 14, 15 years and we think a big change is needed to bring Massapequa Park into the new millennium," he said.
Aside from the flooding problem which residents said was particularly bad on Philadelphia from Front to Pennsylvania Ave. and Ocean from Pennsylvania to Michigan Avenues, he said many residents think the village is too dark at night and needs better lighting. He would also like to examine Massapequa Park's use of stop signs, saying that there often seems to be stop signs where there shouldn't be and none where there should. Finally, he believes something should be done to rectify what he described as a rash of crimes occurring at the Massapequa Park Long Island Rail Road Station on Front St.
A coach and a board of directors member of the Massapequa Mustangs youth football league, Dionisio said he and his running mates would not be afraid to take a hands-on approach to the positions and would be willing to do what was necessary to get the job done.
"We're a younger generation who are not afraid to take the job and work the job, not sit behind a desk and try to get people to do what we're looking to do," he said.
Still, while Dionisio questioned his opponents ability to do what residents wanted to see done, Wiss and Giannattasio voiced their own concerns whether the other could handle the job of mayor.
Giannattasio said he had more life experience to apply to the position making him the stronger candidate. But, Wiss stated that he was experienced beyond his years and said being a current board member meant he was more in tune with constituent concerns.
"I have tremendous knowledge of government and municipal law itself. I'm able to get things done and that can be a tremendous benefit and I've used it already as the deputy mayor and a trustee," he said.
Wiss, who is a member of a number of fraternal and community organizations including the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club and Order Sons of Italy, added that he believed that Giannattasio was out of touch with the community and pointed out that he doesn't attend the village's bi-monthly public board meetings..
Giannattasio stated that he's been very active in village government as an attorney for the planning commission and that Wiss' criticism was unfounded.
"I've been involved for the last 10 years working with the planning commission dealing with long-term solutions to problems," he said. "I don't' go to village meetings anymore because as a member of the planning commission my presence there is not necessary and since I am a government official who serves at the pleasure of the mayor, who, I, of course, have the deepest respect for, I would never go there to criticize anything that he did."
Giannattasio added that he has also been very involved in the community as a coach for soccer, little league and St. Rose of Lima Church basketball, as well as keeping busy with raising his children.
Election day is March 16.