A very well-attended Candidates Night, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Concerned Citizens of Manorhaven, for the upcoming Village of Manorhaven's annual election was held on June 5. The positions of mayor and two trustees are open this year. Running on the PIC ticket for mayor is Nick Capozzi, who has been a trustee for the past three years. For the trustee positions incumbent Jennifer Wilson Pines is seeking a second term, and the current Mayor, James Tomlinson, who was elected to that post in 1998, is the other PIC candidate for trustee. Running on the Justice Party ticket for mayor is former Mayor Gary Pagano, who was mayor from 1992 to 1998. Running with him for the trustee positions are Fred Strang and Tom Panullo. The election will be held on Tuesday, June 20 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Manorhaven Village Hall.
League of Women Voters moderator Joyce Fieldsteel provided some information on the candidates, as did their opening statements.
Nick Capozzi has been a trustee for three years and is now running for mayor. He states that he has 25 years of business and management experience. He is currently the co-owner of a mail order company. Additionally, he said that he was the former chairman of the Gloucester Planning Board.
He criticizes the former Pagano administration for its open-space land acquisition because someone "has to pay for it." In addition he feels that the Wildlife Preserve, established by the Pagano board, should stay that way. "Nature will maintain it for us." He added that he feels there should be "no trails" there.
He stated that the PIC administration has increased communication through its newsletter, which is now mailed to residents rather than hand delivered. Services have also been increased because of improved equipment that has been replaced by the current board.
James Tomlinson has been the Mayor of Manorhaven for the past two years. A retired CPA, he holds an MBA from Adelphi. He has 46 years experience with NY State.
He characterizes his tenure in office as being one that was "fair, prudent, conservative and professional to all people in Manorhaven." He lists as some of his accomplishments negotiating the sewer and CSEA contracts fairly, with the sewer infiltration study currently under way. He notes that the village tax rate has remained the same.
Jennifer Wilson Pines is seeking a second term as trustee. She attended the University of Wisconsin for two years and taken design master classes for two years.. She managed a studio for ten years. She is also a member of the Audubon Society, and participates in other local organizations, including the L.I. Sound Committee Study Citizens Advisory Committee.
For the last two years, she has reviewed plans for the nature preserve, discovering that a proposed storm retention would have been an algae infested mess in the summer. She added that she has "slogged through the preserve numerous times with people from the DEC, the Department of State the EPA and Nassau County. "I wrote the native plant list. I took a bird survey, I researched the history of the area." and comments that she wants to continue this work.
In terms of enforcement Pines said she's worked with the building department too with the philosophy of "safety first" through compliance not tickets.
In terms of the waterfront, she's a member of several committees that specifically deal with the bay. She has also been instrumental in taking 178 tons of marine junk out of Sheets Creek East at very little cost to the village.
Gary Pagano holds a BFA from NYIT. He is currently a talent consultant and producer on Broadway and television. He was mayor from 1992-1998. He's running on his record. He points to his success in cleaning up the illegal apartments. He noted, however, that enforcing the zoning codes isn't really enough to secure the quality of life inside a community. He emphasizes that a positive vision to move forward is also required.
He believes that what really attracts people to Manorhaven is its waterfront. He said that his administration embarked on a plan of acquiring what little open space was left in Manorhaven. "We established the Wildlife Preserve and bought Morgan's Dock. He mentioned that all of this was done without any tax impact on the residents."
He feels that a threat to the village exists now, which he called industrial expansion. He said that the LWRP, which his administration formulated, was designed to remove the industrial zoning established 50 years ago, which was originally part of the war effort. Overall, the LWRP is intended to establish more of a residential waterfront character, he told the audience.
Unlike his Justice Party, he believes that the current PIC officials are pushing to expand industrial use.
Tom Panullo is a retired LIRR conductor, and for the past 25 years has also worked doing some accounting and income taxes. He attended Brooklyn College. He said he's running because, " After two years of watching what this board has done, I felt it was time for new faces. These people didn't accomplish much."
Fred Strang holds an associates degree in marketing. He is purchasing manager for a manufacturing company, with 20 years of management experience. He is currently on the .board of directors for Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus and Orchard Beach Bath Association.
Strang says he doesn't want to see the village go "backwards" with industrial zoning. Instead, he wants a mix of commercial and residential.
Strang complained about mismanagement and operation of village hall, which, in his view includes, among other things, not receiving needed documentation in a timely manner, not allowing some residents the opportunity to speak at public hearings and having the names of people making a complaint be made public.
Both mayoral candidates were asked to give their vision for the village.
Capozzi responded that his party stresses "moderation and going through things slowly." He noted that the PIC board has gone through the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan), which was created by the former Justice board. "There are many things that have to be tweaked," he said, giving as an example the right to condemn people's property because you want to put a walk around the park.
Moving on to the heated debate currently going on in Manorhaven regarding business and residential interests, Capozzi said, "The bad guy is not always the business people in this village. If you think that any one in this village can afford the taxes if we close all our industry...it's just not going to be....Our taxes will skyrocket."
His vision includes prudent planning. "All these knee-jerk ideas sound wonderful. It's nice pie in the sky but we need to do it slowly and cautiously."
Pagano replied that the Justice Party sees Manorhaven as a waterfront, residential community.
In terms of losing tax revenue without industry, he said, "I've been hearing that we need an industrial tax base to keep taxes down for years. Take a look at the industrial area in Manhasset Isle and tell me how many of those buildings are occupied. More than half are empty," he said. Continuing, he commented, "Industrial zoning and use is incongruous with what this waterfront or any other community on the North Shore should have." He compared Manorhaven to Glen Cove and Port Jefferson, pointing out that these towns had old time industry, which at the time was well-suited for its economics. Now, Pagano feels, the economy of Long Island is going to be based on recreation, leisure and lifestyle. "We have one of the finest pieces of real estate in all of Long Island. It's there. It's been degraded, but it can be turned around with grant money that is available in Albany and Washington. We could turn this community around."
Before land use is determined, what procedures will take place? Will the public be polled?
Strang said that a public hearing is a good place to hear residents' concerns. "The key work is hearing. Make sure the voice of the people is heard."
Pagano responded that if a government chooses to be unresponsive and turn a deaf ear to the residents, their best recourse is to vote that group out in the next election.
Tomlinson wanted to clarify a reference that was made to a public hearing that the board shut down because "We had heard too much." Continuing, he said, I apologized then and I apologize now. I feel that we've given people more than a free chance to express their opinions at public meetings and public hearings."
Pines took the approach that there exists a number of already legal ways of informing the public. "The board must first and foremost follow legal guidelines...no matter how unpopular they are at times."
Capozzi stressed that communication is important. Speaking to the residents, he said, "You now get a newsletter." He lamented the fact that despite a request made to the residents for suggestions and input noted in it for the past two years, "not one has been received, unfortunately." He added, "so what we have to do is use our best judgment...that's what you elected us for."
To Tomlinson, why are you stepping down from mayor to trustee?
He replied, "It's a personal matter. The mayor's job is all consuming. I was spending more time at Village work than in my own household."
What is each candidates' plans for the commercial property on Manhasset Isle?
Capozzi said, as we are part of the United States, "We are a capitalistic country. I want to see a good mix of residential and commercial. We need good rateables."
Pines responded, that in terms of Manhasset Isle, "we only have one commercial zone which is C-1 marine that covers the south side of Manhasset Isle which is all marine, and on the east, which is zoned marine but currently no businesses exist there. She feels that this zoning is no longer appropriate because it backs onto Sheets Creek East which is a mud flat and no longer a viable area. "The area needs to be studied to see if there's a better use for it," she said.
Tomlinson pointed out that 25 percent of taxes comes from business. "Without that the residential group would have a severe problem.. We need to stay with commercial/residential," he said.
Panullo said that "the Justice Party agrees that the village needs residential and commercial combined together."
Pagano replied that under the LWRP for Manhasset Isle, his former administration wanted to create a C-4 zone where industrial buildings that currently exist could be zoned for more marine related and water related business, and also include a restaurant zone, all with economic incentives. "Essentially, we're looking for appropriate businesses that enhance our community," he said.
"We also feel that commercial property is an absolute necessity, but it's the appropriateness of the commercial that's really at issue...not whether it's commercial or not."
Strang echoed his running mates comments, "Nobody is trying to eliminate commercial properties in Manorhaven. But, we need the right mix and the right usage." He added, "to have industrial property increase is strictly something that goes against everything we're trying to develop in the LWRP."
As they both identify themselves as environmentalists, both Pines and Pagano were asked what each would do to preserve the residents access to open spaces and the waterfront, and also how they intend to preserve the natural ecology.
Pines replied that she would continue to look at properties that the village has acquired to see what can be enhanced and preserved. She noted that she's working with the town and the county to see if other properties can be acquired, for example lot 161 on the far side of the preserve which is contiguous to it. She is looking at the existing spartina grass plantings that are being threatened. She wants to have a large amount of access for the public, while preserving the sensitivity of the Wildlife Preserve, making it a passive park for things like bird watching.
Pagano stressed his interest in the preserve, noting that for the original plan environmentalists and landscape architects were hired to develop a contiguous trail, which would start at the Town Dock and end up at Morgan's Dock. This would be in conjunction with the Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington. He envisions the preserve as a place for school children to come for biological experiments and as a passive park for residents to enjoy.
Pagano was asked to explain policies for which he has been attacked. Specifically these included, tickets, garbage stickers and videotaping at stop signs.
He replied that when he took office in 1992, the village had a crisis situation in terms of illegal apartments. Through an intense program, it was greatly improved. However, even when the need subsided, he said, the mechanism was still there. "I take full reasonability for that, even though there might have been some over zealousness...I no longer see the need for that level of enforcement."
All the candidates were asked what attention will be paid to the Wildlife Preserve and to rehabilitate the gazebo.
Jim Tomlinson reported that the village just had the property around the gazebo fenced in. He also informed the audience that he and others spent one Saturday at the preserve, cleaning out 15,000 pounds of garbage that had been left by locals who decided to camp out there. "We recently had no trespassing signs posted," he noted, explaining that the police could now, as they couldn't in the past, remove undesirables from there.
Tom Panullo remarked that he didn't understand why the current administration has not tried to get grants to finish off the preserve. He said that the Justice Party would go in that direction.
Pines replied that the preserve needs a significant amount of work. She added that it needs to be accessible to people in a sensitive way. "We've had problems with derelicts and we want it to be safe.
As far as grants go, she said that the PICs haven't pursued additional grants because they come "with strings," according to her. "It's called matching funds. They just don't give you money to spend. You have to put out money from your pocket to match the amount."
Pagano replied that while it is true that many grants are matching grants, for others you can put up the property, or elements of the property. "It doesn't have to be a cash match." He noted that during his six years in office, "not a penny came out of the taxes."
In terms of the gazebo, he said that it was never built as a gazebo per se. "It was supposed to be an educational trail head where inside there would be laminates of local flora and fauna." He stated that the village did not pay for that gazebo or any additional work that was done there.
Fred Strang replied that for two years the preserve has sat idle and unavailable to the public. In terms of safety, he feels, that a well-maintained, and managed preserve creates its own safety. "It welcomes people." He feels that the number of people that the preserve would draw, would make it a safer place.
Capozzi noted that for one year he sat on the Pagano board as a trustee. He said that the redwood posts were supposed to have pictures on them. For the six years that Justice was in office, that wasn't done, he said. "These are wonderful ideas, but they have to be instituted."
He also claimed that the Justice administration spent $1 million on open property. He contends that it came from a tax surplus. "If a village has more than 10 percent in surplus, it has to give it back. Where did it go?"
What are candidates views on industrial development in Manorhaven?
Tomlinson stated that heavy industry does not exist in Manorhaven. "It's really light industry, " which he feels the village can "handle."
Panullo, alluding to the recent zoning from I-2 to I-3 of 30 Sagamore Hill Drive, considers 48 foot trucks, painting, etc. "heavy industry."
Pines, like Tomlinson, feels that there's a place for a light industrial use of property in Manorhaven. However, "we're not advocating for Thypin Steel or Republic to return."
Pagano feels that it's semantics. "This is a waterfront community and it's just not the place anymore for industrial zoning. It's a place for boats, people and parks, not 48 foot trucks."
Capozzi stressed that the uses in Manhasset Isle are "not heavy industry." He believes that the split zoning of three buildings in Manhasset Isle in 1988 could be illegal. He said he'd rather spend money on fixing the roads than on legal fees.
Fred Strang responded, "Don't be fooled. I-3 is I-3, no matter what. If 30 Sagamore sells tomorrow, the new owner can continue to do various types of industry."
Each candidate was given the opportunity for closing remarks.
Summing up Pines stressed her commitment to compassion and community. "We have to do what's right which sometimes isn't popular, even though it's legal. We have to do what's best and consistent with the rest of the region." She noted that the LWRP has to benefit the entire village.
Capozzi said that during the six years of the Justice administration a lot of unnecessary things were done. He said that when the PIC Party took over, "we had to put the house in order." He noted that Village Hall has been refurbished, including a sprinkler system so that the village crew no longer has to waste time watering. He said that the Pagano administration had to use outside help for snow removal because the street sweeper was in ill repair. "It's lovely to have a Wildlife Preserve, but we need essentials taken care of. We're real meat and potatoes," he said.
He reiterated how the newsletter has improved communication with residents.
Pagano pointed out the irony of the fact that the PIC board that has taken two years to review and study the LWRP, yet rushed through, in his view, the industrial rezoning at 30 Sagamore Hill Drive so quickly.
He also disputed Capozzi's claim that his administration spent $1 million to acquire open space. He contends that the amount was $450,000.
Countering Capozzi's claim that he was left with a big surplus when he took office, Pagano claims that the Musselwhite administration left him $350,000.
To Capozzi's claim that the Justice administration had to use outside contractors to remove snow, Pagano said that it happened once in 1993 when there was a huge snowstorm.
Pagano then reiterated his vision for the village of seeing it as a "residential waterfront community."
Tomlinson closed by stating that "there's still a lot of work to be done. We've been successful in some ways. I've worked earnestly for everybody, and no one in particular."
Panullo said that if the residents of Manorhaven want their village back, they have to go out and vote for the Justice Party candidates.
Strang ended by saying that he wants to give village hall back to the residents and provide high standards along with a good quality of life. He also commented that he appreciates the business community and wants to cooperate with it.
Stating what in his opinion is the "real difference" between the PIC Party and the Justice Party is, "They took support from heavy industry and we took heavy industry on."