Immediately following the North Hempstead State of the Town address at a luncheon sponsored by the League of Women Voters (LWV) at the George Washington Manor (see Port Washington News February 5, 2004), newly elected Supervisor Jon Kaiman led a tour of key sites in the town. The tour was designed to illustrate Kaiman's three major areas of focus: (1) a constituent response system ("311"), (2) community-based planning, and (3) economic development, specifically the enhancement of our business tax base. "I gave a bit of a tour to show how we are going to implement these new ideas," Kaiman said. One of the special guests at the LWV meeting and on the tour was Baltimore City Mayor Martin O'Malley. Mayor O'Malley, who is in the process of revitalizing that city's waterfront and providing constituent response in what Kaiman described as "record time," is advising the town.
At the Town Dock, accompanied by representatives of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington (RFMBPW), Kaiman outlined his plans for revitalizing our waterfront. Kaiman spoke of two major issues: enhancing the bays and ponds, and working with waterfront businesses. Regarding the former, he said, "My goal is to figure out a way to dredge the bay." As discussed in more detail in a January 9, 2003 article in the Port News, the dredging of the bay is complex, expensive, and, in some ways controversial. Kaiman said that he expects to be able to bring in federal funds for waterfront revitalization. With respect to economic development, Kaiman intends to work with local businesses to make this area a tourist attraction. "I want to do this, if possible, without bringing in more traffic," he said.
Kaiman said that the Town is working with the Village of Port Washington North, which has developed and begun to implement plans for beautification of the waterfront. He said that Joel Ziev, special advisor to the town on waterfront issues, and longtime activist on behalf of the waterfront, is working with the village on this project. The details of the waterfront beautification have been laid out in various public meetings and in previous issues of this newspaper.
Kaiman announced that the town is also investigating the feasibility of a townwide trail system. He acknowledged that RFMBPW had provided leadership on this some years ago with the design and partial implementation of a comprehensive trail plan for Port Washington and vicinity. (The Hempstead Harbor trail is part of this system, as well as the shoreline walk along Manhasset Bay.) According to Gil Anderson, commissioner of Public Works, after receiving and reviewing various proposals, the town expects to be awarding a contract to Greenman Pedersen Inc. (GPI) a Babylon-based engineering firm, to develop a townwide trail master plan. Anderson said that GPI is very experienced at doing master plans and at identifying potential sources of funding. Anderson commented, "We know we have a lot of parks and open space that have the possibility of being connected. We want to make sure that we cover both the north and the south end of the town." Consistent with Supervisor Kaiman's commitment to community-based planning, community forums will be held in each of the four quadrants of the town so that they can receive input as to what the community wants and to determine what is already out there. Anderson added that once they get feedback, they will develop three alternative plans that will be presented at a townwide meeting. In addition, the plans will be posted on the town website. Once public comments are received, final plans will be presented to the town board for approval. The time frame, said Anderson, is six to nine months. The town put aside approximately $500,000 for the plans and for seed money, and expects to get grants from other sources for implementation. Anderson echoed remarks Kaiman made in his formal address and in private interviews to the effect that they want to promote the wonderful resources that the town has in the way of parks, beaches, trails and natural beauty.
After the town dock, Kaiman met with Frank Castagna of the Americana shopping center in Manhasset (often referred to as the "Miracle Mile") to discuss retail development in North Hempstead. The group then proceeded to the old Waldbaum's site in Great Neck, where Kaiman discussed possibilities for the re-development of brownfields at that location and elsewhere.
The tour began in New Cassel, which is a model for the community-based planning that Kaiman hopes to introduce throughout the town. The planning process, which Kaiman participated in prior to his election as supervisor, was run by Sustainable Long Island, an organization that promotes economic development, social equity and a healthy environment for Long Island. As part of the implementation of the economic development plan, there will be a new town building going up in New Cassel, and the Department of Public Safety will be moving to that location. Regarding community planning, Kaiman commented, "If the community doesn't want it, they don't get it."
Kaiman also promised a "spring cleaning" after the snow is cleared away to get rid of all the sand and other debris of winter. In both the State of the Town address and in private interviews, he gave a great deal of credit to previous Supervisor May Newburger for putting the town on a sound fiscal basis, enabling us to move forward with new initiatives, as well as being able to pay off about $1 million worth of debt.
At the luncheon meeting, Kaiman discussed the constituent response system ("311"), saying that it is "a new way to manage government." To "bring the town into the modern technological era," Kaiman has brought on board Sharon Case Williams, who has developed global communications systems for Lehman Brothers. Williams said that she is looking forward to the new challenges. One constituent wondered whether, after the system is in place, the town will have the staff to respond promptly to what will most likely be a large number of calls. Kaiman replied that the major emphasis right now is on the technology, but he is aware of the need to be sure that calls are followed through and responded to. He said, "In Baltimore, the potholes are fixed within 48 hours. I don't know if we can do it that fast, but I want to make sure that follow up is done."
In response to another question, Kaiman said that his administration is committed to quality of life issues. He said, "We want to make resources available to all segments of the community. We are looking to bring in a company to build a community center or sports facility. We also want to dedicate time and resources to let people know what we have - for example, tennis, golf, indoor pool, botanical gardens." Consistent with his community-planning theme, he said, "Let us know what you want to see and what you need."
Kaiman summed up by saying, "We will continue to focus on the environmental issues that were so important to Supervisor Newburger and we will continue to make sure that town finances remain a top priority. We have a great deal of work ahead of us ... and we will never forget that our daily responsibility is to make our residents comfortable, safe and happy living here in the Town of North Hempstead.