Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 07 January 2011 00:00
Cuts in bus service were a big topic in Nassau this year. First, in June, the MTA made service cuts to Able Ride, a program that provides bus service to the disabled. A few months later, the MTA threatened to discontinue Long Island Bus service entirely, leaving the county in the position of negotiating with the MTA or privatizing the system. It is still unclear at this time what steps, if any, the county will take to maintain bus service for residents.
With the MTA payroll tax also a very popular target of criticism locally during the past election season this fall, it appears that the MTA and Long Island officials have been increasingly at odds; residents who depend on the buses to get to work, school and play can only hope for a thaw in the icy relations between the two in 2011.
County Executive Edward P. Mangano’s 2011 budget included many controversial items, including a new sewer fee for tax-exempt entities. However, the item that really concerned many Nassau residents was the removal of Nassau’s “guarantee” on tax certioraris, or the refunds given back to taxpayers after they win a grievance determining that their property was assessed incorrectly. While the Mangano administration contends that the county guarantee was bankrupting Nassau, and is no longer feasible given the county’s precarious financial shape, critics, including members of the Plainview-Old Bethpage School Board, see the issue differently.
While school board trustees and school district personnel, both from Plainview-Old Bethpage and throughout Nassau County, contend that giving schools the assessment responsibility is unfair, given that schools are not responsible for property assessments, Mangano’s administration has claimed that school budgets have plenty of fat that can be trimmed. It remains to be seen how the eradication of the county guarantee will affect school budgets going forward.
Perhaps the biggest topic in this community specifically during 2010 was the concern about bullying at district schools. In fact, Senator Kemp Hannon took his concerns about bullying directly to the schools, holding a roundtable discussion on proposed cyberbulling legislation with a group of students at Mattlin Middle School on Friday, June 11.
Later in the year, the group POB Parents Concerned About Bullying held a very well-attended public forum on Tuesday, Sept. 28, and continues to hold meetings where parents can share their concerns and come up with possible solutions.
While some members of POB Parents Concerned About Bullying, as well as unaffiliated parents, have criticized the Plainview-Old Bethpage School Board for allegedly not doing enough to discipline children who repeatedly demonstrate bullying behavior, the district presented many anti-bullying programs to students in the fall, and will be working on establishing new anti-bullying curriculum during 2011 with the help of the new Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) Committee. The formation of the committee is required under DASA, but school districts are not required to implement the change until 2012; due to concerns over the issue, the district decided to form the committee as soon as possible.
Also, Long Island Professional Education Network (LIPEN), administered by school board trustee Ginger Lieberman, fellow trustee Evy Rothman, and partner Roni Benson, branched out from their nationally-recognized “Bully Frog” program this year to offer “Cyberbullies Beware,” a program offered to schools meant to specifically teach kids how to deal with cyberbullying.
It was shaping up to be a tough Democratic primary race for the 6th District State Senate Seat: Local hardware store owner and community leader Francesca Carlow, versus former Nassau County Legislator Dave Mejias of Farmingdale. Carlow presented a campaign based on grass-roots support and the chance of a fresh start in Albany, while Mejias leveraged his legislative experience and Democratic party support. The Nassau County Democratic Party challenged Carlow’s petitions, leading to a lengthy legal battle over her candidacy that dragged on for weeks during the summer of 2010.
However, the race took an unexpected turn when Mejias was arrested for allegedly stalking his former girlfriend on Sept. 1. He dropped out of the race soon after, stating that he would rather end his run for office than let the sensationalism surrounding his arrest overwhelm the issues of the day.
Yet, despite the fact that Mejias urged his supporters to vote for his opponent, the Nassau County Democratic Party never endorsed Carlow- a move that many of her supporters found baffling. The party did, however, halt the legal battle against Carlow’s candidacy the day after Mejias’ arrest. Still, Carlow did receive the endorsement of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC).
While Carlow ran a memorable campaign and her message resonated with many voters, especially on her home turf of Plainview, ultimately Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon triumphed in the election.
A 144-acre piece of property, located between Round Swamp Road and Old Country Road in Plainview, was back in the news this year after a brief absence. Faced with a groundswell of community opposition, New York Islanders owner Charles Wang withdrew his application to rezone the property for an ambitious mixed-use development called “Old Plainview” in 2007, stating that he did not wish to create discord in the community with the controversial plan. Now, in a partnership with The Beechwood Organization, a Jericho-based developer of residential property, a new plan for property may see development sometime in the near future.
While much remains unknown about the plan for the property, The Beechwood Organization’s Michael Dubb has said that the organization intends to meet with community members before the design phase begins in order to avoid the kind of community ire that the original project provoked.
The property was also recently reported to be under consideration by the Shinnecock Indian Nation for the site of a casino. While Dubb has stated that he will not rule out development possibilities for the lot, the prospect of the casino is much less popular in the community than a housing project of the type The Beechwood Organization specializes in.
Meanwhile, many members of the community hope that at least some of the property will remain open to the plants and wildlife it currently supports; the 144-acre lot is the largest remaining parcel of open space in Nassau County.
The community was saddened when a fire at Old Country Animal Clinic on Sunday, July 18 left many beloved pets dead. Electrical work being done at the clinic during the night was determined by the Fire Marshal’s office as the cause of the fire. Firefighters from the Plainview, Jericho, Farmingdale, Syosset, Hicksville, Bethpage and Melville fire departments battled the flames for approximately half an hour before subduing the fire.
While 17 animals died, firefighters were able to rescue the reptiles and amphibians. The clinic operated out of an RV and was able to provide some services to pet owners after the fire, and formally re-opened in September.
After a dark time for the clinic, many in the community (whether they have furred and/or feathered friends or not) wish them a much brighter 2011.
The Plainview-Old Bethpage School District Board of Education’s decision to approve new contracts for the Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers (PCT) on Monday, Jan. 25 was the cause of a lot of discussion in the community- or more specifically, the fact that teachers received a 2 percent raise for the 2009-2010 school year. There was much debate among the board members before the decision, though it was eventually approved 5-2.
Many residents felt that this course of action was inappropriate during tough economic times, and made their concerns clear during public participation at school board meetings earlier this year.
It was a controversial year for the district in general, with both the new Wellness Policy (approved in September) and the testing procedure and scheduling for Project Challenge, the district’s gifted program, inspiring plenty of criticism from parents. However, many still showed support for the board during National School Board Week in October. Also on a positive note, Superintendent Gerard W. Dempsey was honored in January with the Nassau BOCES Education Partner Award, and board member Ginger Lieberman was honored in March by the Nassau County Legislature for her commitment to bettering the community.
This was also a year of change for the board, with former president Lori Weinstein stepping down, to be replaced by Gary Bettan, and Amy Pierno taking over as vice president. The board also welcomed new member Emily Schulman after school board elections in May.
The Plainview-Old Bethpage Library had much to celebrate in 2010. Not only did 2010 see the continuation of many successful programs, but the library was awarded a five-star rating- for the third time- by the magazine Library Journal, the primary trade publication for libraries in the United States. The only other Nassau County libraries to make the list were Port Washington Public Library (five stars), and Great Neck Library (three stars), both of which are in the same budget category as Plainview-Old Bethpage.
In addition to this prestigious recognition, the library also welcomed several new additions: a new trophy case donated by the Plainview Sports Council, where sports trophies from different local sports teams will be displayed, and the Roberta S. Kaufman Reading Room, a new facility made possible by a generous donation from the Kaufman family in the memory of Roberta S. Kaufman, a teacher at POBJFK High School.
The community was host to not one, but two candidates’ forums during election season: one hosted by the League of Women Voters of East Nassau, and one hosted by Plainview’s own chamber of commerce. Both were spirited and, at times, volatile events that proved challenging for the moderators to keep under control. Nevertheless, candidates discussed substantive issues, and several challengers, such as Larry Silverman (Democrat, candidate for 5th Senate District) and Donna Lee (Democrat, candidate for Town of Oyster Bay Town Board) had an opportunity to explain their platforms to residents who may not yet have been familiar with them.
Hopefully, future political forums this upcoming year will emulate the spontaneity and frankness of those that residents attended this year, while maintaining a certain standard of civility on the part of candidates and audience members alike.
At the beginning of 2010, many people in the community didn’t even know what roller derby was. In fact, perhaps many still don’t, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Long Island Roller Rebels had their biggest year ever in 2010. The all-female league, which calls Skate Safe America in Old Bethpage their home, boasted record attendance at their bouts this year.
Especially notable were the Empire Skate Showdown on Sept. 4, where teams from all over the state descended on Skate Safe America for an epic 12-bout contest, and the league championship bout on Dec. 4, where the Rolling Thundercats bested the Ladies of Laceration in an exciting night of fearless skating at a packed-to-the-gunnels venue.
Roller derby fans can look forward to more electrifying bouts this year when the season starts up again in March.
Thanks to the Plainview-Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce, a once garbage-strewn lot has become a scenic garden. On June 8, the chamber celebrated the metamorphosis from a forgotten lot to a point of community pride, complete with flowers, shrubbery, clean brick paths and park benches when chamber president Gary Epstein declared the garden open. Many donations, such as those from Plainview Hospital and the Plainview Bethpage Lions Club, went into recreating the space. Nearly 140 people attended the dedication ceremony.
Former Nassau County Assistant District Attorney and Plainview resident Rebecca Alesia was appointed to the Oyster Bay Town Board on Feb. 9, replacing Rose Walker, who became a Nassau County Legislator. In November, Alesia was elected to the board.
While members of the town board serve the Town of Oyster Bay in its entirety, and not any one particular area, Plainview is Alesia’s hometown. She can frequently be spotted at local sporting and charity events, often with a smile.
Well, perhaps not everything. However, Plainview speedster Shari Klarfeld regularly placed in the top three finishers of many, many Greater Long Island Running Club (GLIRC) runs throughout 2010. While many local runners posted great times throughout the year, Klarfeld was the most consistent. She was rewarded with the GLIRC Silver Medal Overall Championship Award for the second year in a row.
Other Plainview-Old Bethpage area runners who made the news repeatedly in 2010 were Odd Sangesland and Barbara Moskowitz.
Named as the Nassau County Poet Laureate for 2009-2011, Plainview resident Gail Teller received the 2010 Long Island Decentralization Grant for the Arts from the Huntington Arts Council. The grant was used for Teller’s project Poetry of Forgiveness, Workshops and Anthology.