Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 28 January 2011 00:00
The Oyster Bay Civic Association is doing something new. It is going to poll its members to find out what local residents would like to see happen at Snouder’s Corner Drugstore. Previously the OBCA’s stance was to wait until “all the facts were in” before taking a poll of members views on an issue.
President Bill Von Novak said at their Jan. 10 meeting at the Italian-American Club, that a letter will go out to members asking their opinion as talk grows of having apartments; a business; or a museum located at the former Snouder’s Corner Drugstore building on the corner of South Street and West Main Street. The topic of Snouder’s will be on the next meeting agenda.
Currently, Ray Easton, an accountant from Cold Spring Harbor announced in an article in Newsday that at the suggestion of Frank Genovese and Eugene King, the owners of Snouder’s, he would form a non-profit foundation to raise $3 million. A million would go to the owners to purchase Snouder’s; $2 million would go to renovate the building with the aim of having it be a museum with its former soda fountain restored.
Mr. VonNovak said there were a lot of things to consider as they ask for money including who would control the funds; the foundation; and the theme of the restoration.
Member John Wallace was asked his opinion after the meeting ended. He said thoughtfully, that he and his wife have lived here for 40 years. For a time, he said the downtown area was “seedy looking.” Then the downtown area was improved with signage. [That was when the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce had Attorney Chuck Lane fill out the papers for the hamlet to qualify for community development money based on the income of people living in the core business area. Working with the Town they created the signage program for carved wooden signs with gold lettering that now present a unified design in the hamlet.]
There are lots of historic buildings in the hamlet, said Mr. Wallace. He said, “Architecturally Snouder’s is not a very nice looking building.” The question is can it be improved and remain historic. Can there be a compromise, he asked. “The house was built and then modified in front. You could take off the stuck-on part to reveal the original house, it’s about 15 feet, and put on something modern and the portion behind it can be historic,” he suggested.
As the meeting began, Bob Martin and Rob Brusca provided an update on the ongoing efforts for additional traffic safety in the area, particularly the Route 106 corridor from the East Norwich Shopping Center north past the Vernon School. Mr. Martin continues to lead the way, with continued support and cooperation from Brian Nugent of Deputy County Executive Rob Walker’s office, the Second Precinct, Bob Reilly of the Town’s Office of Public Safety, and from OB-EN Superintendent of Schools Dr. Harrington and Chris Van Cott, assistant superintendent for finance & operations. Currently, the NYS Department of Transportation is considering the group’s request for additional and better school zone signage and flashing beacons along 106 nearby Vernon School (including the reminder to drivers that a 30 M.P.H. speed restriction is in place for the “school zone”, which extends from approximaately the intersection of Sugar Toms Road and 106 to about the East Norwich Firehouse).
Similar school zone signage, etc. will be pursued via the Town in front of Roosevelt Elementary School and the Oyster Bay High School, as the NYS DOT does not have jurisdiction of the roadways in front of those schools.
Additionally, said Mr. Brusca, the group has a site visit pending with the county’s traffic engineer for the potential addition of speed indicators along the 106 corridor that would similarly remind drivers of the existing speed limit, with a flashing signal that would notify drivers of their actual speed if traveling in excess of that speed.
Additional outreach has been made to the Town of Oyster Bay in a coordinated effort by the OB-EN Chamber of Commerce, OBCA, ENCA and the Oyster Bay Main Street Association in an effort to address some of the continued parking challenges in the hamlet, many of which have existed for decades. Still though, the groups are seeking to move the dialogue forward, even incrementally, to which the Town has been very receptive, having recently met and with planned follow-up meetings with Michele Browner, chamber president and Mr. Brusca.
Ultimate focus remains on the planned substantial improvements to be made to Firemen’s Field as part of the last phase of the TR Park Plan improvements. The groups believe that in fact making it a more aesthetically pleasing and functional location will, in turn, make it a more appealing parking option, in turn freeing up more parking space downtown.
Rob Brusca reported to the members that the Oyster Bay Civic Association is reaching out to the Town Supervisor’s office in hopes that the town and county can help them create signage similar do what was done in East Norwich. Sean Rainey was the project manager for the East Norwich signs and the group hopes to use the information he garnered for that project, for the Oyster Bay project.
They will be similar in design but they will need more of them since it is a larger community. The project would begin in the business district, along Audrey Avenue and South Street area and would grow from there.
President Bill VonNovak said that although their general rules say they don’t raise money for other non-profits, he proposed that the OBCA contribute to the Oyster Bay Historical Society’s new building which he said is 80 to 90 percent finished. “They need a little assistance,” he said. The funds will be used to access the Dolan Foundation matching grant. Mr. VonNovak said the board will look into the amount to donate.
Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs inducted the new board: President Bill Von Novak; Vice President Judy Barnett; Treasurer Louise Rea; Secretary Gary Drury; and members Cat Colvin and George DeMartino. Board member Stan Speigelman was absent for the induction as he recuperates from a fall. In addition, Mr. VonNovak said Rob Brusca who has served as a board member will stay on the board as counsel, in spite of not living in the 11771 zip code area. It is an appointed position and he was not sworn into office. Mr. Brusca is also an ENCA board member.
Legisator Judy Jacobs complimented the Oyster Bay Civic Association and the East Norwich Civic Association for working together so closely and effectively. ENCA Matt Meng attended the meeting.
Mr. VonNovak said the calendar this year has a few blips. The group meets bi-monthly on the third Thursday of the month. Therefore there is no meeting in February. March’s meeting falls on St. Patrick’s Day and so they will meet on Thursday, March 24 instead. The May meeting will be held earlier, on May 12 so that Oyster Bay-East Norwich School Board President James Robinson and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phyllis Harrington will be able to discuss the budget before the vote which will be on May 17.
Legislator Judy Jacobs said, “Every municipality and school district is having the same financial problems,” as she introduced the topic of the possible NIFA take over of the county finances.
She said when the Democrats won control of the county legislature, she became the Presiding Officer. She said, they were at that time facing financial problems. “I went to Albany and asked for an oversight board. Skelos and Governor George Pataki laughed at me but within three months, Pataki signed legislation giving us the ability to have a Nassau Interim Finance Authority.” Because of them, she said the county got a triple A bond rating when they had been reduced to junk bonds.
Ms. Jacobs said, “Tom Gulotta was willing to work with NIFA, the members of which were Republicans at that time. The members are appointed by the Governor: the Senate; the Assembly; and the Comptroller.
“They are all brilliant financially,” she said of the appointees. This NIFA group is comprised of three Democrats; two Republicans and one Conservative.
She said, “If NIFA takes over – they are good people. They don’t want one-time shots based on selling a piece of property. You can’t borrow money from the MTA. We had to pay back double interest and it came to $240 million.”
When the Democrats left office in December 2010, she said, “The county was left with a balance with the help of the Energy Tax which would have earned $60 to $70 million and a 3.9 percent cost of living increase. Our plan was believed by Wall Street. The Republican’s campaigned on getting rid of the Energy Tax and no tax increase and won the election.”
NIFA, she said, is just a control board. If the county doesn’t bring in the needed revenue – “without any gimmicks,” NIFA could take over. But, she said, “After my 16 years with the legislature I’d be devastated to be taken over by the control board.” She said the fees the county imposed to avert a tax increase are in themselves a tax increase. “You are a user and you pay more,” she said to the audience.
“It’s time for everyone to work together in the county.” If NIFA does take over, she said, let it do its work.
“What’s the worst scenario,” asked Gary Drury. She said, “NIFA could open up the county contracts; freeze all salaries; and help keep us on a better track. They can do the work no politician can do; but you don’t want to be the person who couldn’t do it.”
Ms. Jacobs has no animosity toward the other side. “We have to work together,” she said.
The meeting was held on Thursday, Jan. 20 and Rob Brusca said, he thought NIFA was to meet that day – that it was the deadline. Ms. Jacobs agreed but said it was the date County Executive Mangano had to give out his budget. “NIFA has two weeks to decide. I hope they don’t drag this on for months,” she said.
They will take over if the budget is 1 percent off. “This is all new to us too,” she said. “We are learning step by step. Those (NIFA) people are all in big firms,” she said. She added that they are a small group, with a skeletal staff and she didn’t know how they would operate. She explained the problem: “If we cannot bring in solid revenue we have to cut services but we all want to take care of the poor, disabled and children.”
On the other hand, she said, “Thank God for the Oyster Bay Rotary. They were the only people who stepped up to help with AbleRide.” That was when the MTA said they could not provide bus service to handicapped riders on the north shore and Rotary created its own program in conjunction with DBSC (now known as the Life Enrichment Center of Oyster Bay).