"There ought to be a law...or maybe not" was the apt title Town of North Hempstead (TONH) council member Fred Pollack gave to the open meeting he held with constituents. The meeting, held at the Port Washington library, was well attended and engendered a lot of lively discussion. The Port Washington News followed up with a one-on-one interview with Pollack to further explore some of the issues that were raised at the meeting. Pollack commented, "I was very happy to see that many people turn out for a meeting when there was really no overriding issue."
Town of North Hempstead Council member Fred Pollack listens to a Port Washington resident's concerns.
The issues raised were wide-ranging. Not surprisingly, a number of comments had to do with traffic and parking, especially along Port Washington Boulevard. There were continuing complaints about the new traffic pattern and loss of parking spots by the North Shore Farms shopping area, as well as individual requests for traffic lights, stop signs, and prohibition of left hand turns at various points along the Boulevard. Pollack pointed out that Port Washington Boulevard is a state road, but said that he will continue to press for better traffic patterns. One of the suggestions that Pollack has made regarding parking is that a study be done to assess the appropriate length of time for metered parking. "In some cases, it may be too short," he said, "and in other cases too long."
Pedestrians had their complaints, too. One resident said, "I like to walk to St. Peter's Church. Once I'm past the post office, it is very hazardous to walk along the sidewalk. A person is in danger of life and limb from the overgrowth and the undergrowth. Even though it is a state road, perhaps the town could send out a crew to clear it." A number of residents pointed out that the commercial district, and in particular Main Street, is unsightly and strewn with litter, variously describing it as "just plain ugly," "a disgrace," "seedy," "disgusting," and "filthy." One person remarked, "The Gold Coast is a mess." The residents asked that action be taken to clean up, repair and upgrade our commercial districts. Pollack talked about some of the initiatives the TONH has under way, but pointed out that "This is not a problem that will be solved by government alone. It won't be solved until people stop throwing out garbage on the street."
With respect to the commercial areas along Port Washington Boulevard, Pollack pointed out that there is virtually no public property on that thoroughfare, but said that efforts are being made to improve the area. The Rite Aid shopping center is going to renovate the whole property at their own expense, including a partial second story for offices, landscaping, a redo of the public parking lot (one end of which is on public property) at their expense. The Revere shopping area, a large part of which has been vacant since the closing of the service station, will also be renovated and will include a bank, two houses, a landscaping buffer, and a lot for public parking. (For more detailed description of the plans, see the Oct. 16 edition of the Port Washington News.)
Pollack said that the plans for the commuter parking garage continue. He said that the town has received a traffic report that they are studying, and a preliminary design is in the works. "It is almost certain that some version of the garage will be built," Pollack told Port News.
A number of citizens suggested that a logical and environmentally friendly solution to the traffic and parking problems would be to have small buses or jitneys that could loop around town picking up people and dropping them off. Pollack said that he will look into this, although he did not believe that a large majority of residents would give up using their cars, "but even if 25 or 30 percent of the residents used the buses, it would alleviate a lot of the traffic."
Concerns were expressed about enforcement of the building code, especially with regard to overcrowding, as well as delays in getting permits. One resident pointed out that inspectors only work from 8 to 4, and therefore don't catch overcrowding conditions that are only apparent in the evening and nighttime. Pollack said that the TONH Building Department has hired a number of new inspectors, and told the Port News that the backlog is essentially cleared up. He added that sometimes what residents believe are violations turn out not to be when they are investigated.
In response to other questions, Pollack discussed the renovation of the two town pools: Marcus Garvey and Manorhaven, both of which will undergo major upgrades. The work on Marcus Garvey is under way; the Manorhaven Pool work is going out for re-bid because the original bids were too high. "The problem," said Pollack, "is that we do not want to have both pools closed at the same time." A few residents pushed for a roof over the Manorhaven Pool so that it can be used year-round, an issue that has been raised at previous meetings and during the visioning process. "It is a possibility," said Pollack, "but right now it is not in the plans."
An overriding question expressed at the meeting and at other venues around town was: "We went through this whole visioning process. What's happening now?" Pollack explained that the visioning committee is meeting regularly, and the TONH is implementing the plan. So far, he mentioned the Baywalk in Port North, the cleanup of Sheets Creek, improvement of recreational facilities (for example, the park and pool renovations mentioned above, as well as the merging and upgrading of the two beaches on West Shore Road.) The previously discussed parking garage is also part of the visioning plan. Pollack mentioned as well that the town and the villages are entering into an intermunicipal emergency management agreement.
Other issues raised included the idea of local district offices (Pollack believes that it is more efficient to have his office at Town Hall), the possibility of televising town meetings, unwanted circulars, handicapped on-street parking (a handicapped person has to climb or wheel onto the curb to feed the meter), the ongoing problem of helicopter noise (which is a federal issue, but local elected officials have been leaning on the FAA), and high taxes (always a concern).
In the Port News interview, Pollack again expressed his delight that so many people turned out to share their comments. He promised to follow through on all of the individual and "global" issues raised (his legislative aide, Jeff Ziev, took copious notes at the meeting). Pollack said that he intends to create a report for the public on the issues raised, which will be posted on the town's web site, www.northhempstead.com (which, incidentally, is being re-designed). He also said that he plans to have more of these meetings in the future. Pollack added that constituent comments and concerns are always welcome and encouraged individuals to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.