As Joseph Muscarella makes a bid for re-election to the Oyster Bay Town Board, he is confident that his consistent responsiveness to local communities will earn the support of voters.
"After four years of continuously being with people, and listening to their concerns and issues and taking care of their problems, I feel very confident that I will continue to do the best I can to win the election and continue to serve the people," said the Republican in a recent interview.
By making himself available to constituents at parks and public events, as well as through walking door-to-door, Muscarella said he has been a true servant to the public - and has enjoyed doing so.
"I happen to like people," said the councilman, who comes from a large family that is steeped in public service and includes Nassau County Legislator Vincent Muscarella, his brother. "I was always taught to give back to the community."
Muscarella noted that he has helped residents with numerous matters - from mending broken curbs, to routing out the adult entertainment industry, to fighting for the cleanup of the Liberty Industrial hazardous waste site in Farmingdale.
Although Democratic challengers have criticized the town board for allowing a $30 million deficit, Muscarella asserted that the board has plugged that budget gap, and said that the current administration has done "an outstanding job" under the leadership of Supervisor Venditto. He cited such accomplishments as keeping the taxes down to the 1989 level, renovations of parks and beaches, and programs to protect the environment. These, he said, have included municipal control of both the north and south shores, dune stabilization, as well as the Stop Throwing Out Pollutants (STOP) waste management project.
Muscarella feels the current administration's pro-active way of governing is evidenced by the Town of Oyster Bay's healthy real estate market. "It's a great town. It's one of the best places to live in the country. The prices of houses are soaring, have gone up tremendously over the last year, and have steadily," he said. "A lot of people are taking advantage of that, and moving into the Town of Oyster Bay."
He added that the board has enabled senior citizens to stay in the town by creating "S-2" senior housing development zones. Although some say the town has allowed too many senior housing complexes, and that this is one source of overdevelopment, Muscarella supports the concept.
"Four years ago, when I came onto the town board, there were some feelings that maybe S-2 wasn't the best thing. And, I told everybody it is the best thing, because the seniors are our greatest asset," he said.
"When you keep your parents here, and your grandparents here, that only enhances the family values. And, we should take care of our parents, because they built this great country. Some of the people had their reservations about senior housing, and I was for it from day one. And, actually it's probably one of the best things the town board has done and expanded," he added. "And now people realize that it's not housing for our seniors, it's a way of life for our seniors - and the demand is growing every day." He added that the town is committed to thoroughly evaluating every proposal for a senior housing complex, and approving only those that are environmentally feasible.
As for his political opponents' assertions that the town needs a Master Plan in order to prevent overdevelopment, Muscarella said that the board has not pursued one because it would take away its flexibility in zoning decisions. "We update the code every day," he said, noting that the town now has the ability to reject development proposals that threaten the area's suburban quality, but that a Master Plan could restrict that jurisdiction.
Muscarella is an independent insurance agent, and he and his wife have three young children. His community activities include service as director of the Arthritis Foundation, past president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Nassau County, soccer and softball coach, and a member of PTA, the Pastoral Council of St. James Church, Seaford, and Knights of Columbus.
There are several major goals he would like to achieve if re-elected. Firstly, he wants to secure a full cleanup of the Liberty Site in Farmingdale, something for which the local community has been fighting for years. The issue is close to home for the councilman, a resident of North Massapequa with children in the Farmingdale School District.
In addition, he aims to use his business background to introduce more advanced information technology to the operations of the Town of Oyster Bay. Muscarella would also like to continue to expand and renovate parks, recreational facilities, and other services for children, as well as protect the environment. "I don't want the town to be one of the most desirable places to live. I want it to be the most desirable place to live - the best place in the country, and we can do it," he said.
For Democratic candidate Anthony Macagnone, the most important reason to win a seat on the Oyster Bay Town Council is to give local working people a voice, a voice which he says they have lacked under the regime of the Republican-held board.
A carpenter and union leader from Farmingdale, Macagnone first made a name for himself locally when he challenged Kemp Hannon to the 6th State Senate seat last year. Although he lost the bid against the popular incumbent Republican, he earned a surprising percentage of the vote considering a dramatic lack of funds. This was after his message about the need to get back the American Dream for working people reached many through word of mouth and newspaper articles. Among those who took notice were several leaders of the Nassau Democratic Party, newly organized under Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli.
While Macagnone's previous campaign was purely grassroots, with his wife and young daughters helping him with much of the legwork, his quest for a town council seat has enjoyed financial support from both the Democratic Party and organized labor. He has also earned support from his local community of Farmingdale, as seen, for example, in car bumper stickers at school board meetings there.
He has even launched a web site: www.macagnone.com. to rally excitement about his campaign.
"Working people have been ignored, and their needs have been ignored. And, now it seems we have somebody looking out for their needs," the candidate said in a recent interview. "Everybody has a special interest group, and mine are working people. I'm proud to say that I support working families."
Macagnone has a critical eye on the management of the Town of Oyster Bay, and said that many don't realize the problems the municipality is facing. For example, he asserted that the town has an over $30 million deficit, although Republican incumbents deny that there is any hole in the budget. "It's similar to Nassau County. Nassau County has a $300 million deficit. And, people are fed up. People are very unhappy that Nassau County owns 1 percent of their house right now, with the transfer tax," he said. "I've had people say, 'Well, when was the last time Tom Gulotta was at my house cutting my lawn.' And, I have to agree with them. Nobody's out there helping the working people right now."
The candidate noted that the deficits in both the town and county were caused by excessive borrowing and spending, and that current elected officials are unwisely selling off public property to pay off debt. Pointing to such deals as the town's sale of 65 acres of open space in Plainview to a developer and the county's sale of the Nassau County Medical Center to a public benefit corporation, he said, "They're mortgaging our future - the future of working families all over Nassau County." He added that Nassau is the only county in the state with a deficit, and that neighboring Suffolk has a surplus.
Because of an excessive amount of employees, he added, the Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course is only making a minor profit - $7,000 according to last year's budget. This is compared to the Town of North Hempstead Golf Course, for example, which he said yielded a $1.8 million profit this year. He added that the town needs to cut a lot of its fat, such as the town car used by the town controller, which he said is unnecessary.
Macagnone believes the town is being overdeveloped, and that a Master Plan is needed to both curb that and set guidelines for building restrictions, signage, etc. "Every inch of land, they're putting a house on. It's starting to look like Queens. No offense to Queens, but I moved out of New York City to enjoy a little more suburban life," he said. "We need to prevent that from happening. And, the only way of doing that is if people get elected who are going to be committed to doing that."
He added that the southern part of the town is already too crowded, and that he does not want to see the same fate for the northern part. "We have to consider the future. We need open land. We need setbacks. We need some beauty. We don't have that right now," he said. "And with the town's current financial restraints, I don't think they can allow for it right now." For example, he expressed concern about the fate of the Underhill Property in Jericho, which he said should be preserved because it lies atop a groundwater protection area. In that case, the local community has asked the town to stop it from being developed, but the town does not have the funds to purchase it.
Macagnone grew up in Farmingdale, and after living in Manhattan for a few years during the '80s, he went back to his hometown to raise his own family.
In addition to being a union leader, his community involvement has included being a soccer coach, serving on a community committee to stop the expansion of Farmingdale's Republic Airport, and as a member of the Coalition to Save Long Island Jobs. Also, while living in Manhattan, he started a civic group to help rout out crack dealers in his lower east side neighborhood. Known as the East 13th Street Crack Patrol, the group received guidance from Curtis Sliwa, founder of the famed citizen crime-fighting group, the Guardian Angels.
As a town councilman, Macagnone said he would continue to stand up for what he believes in, a quality which he said the current board has lacked. "One of the reasons Suffolk County is doing fine is because members of any party - whether Republican or Democrat - got up and said, 'You know, this is wrong,'" he said. "Whereas in the Town of Oyster Bay, they're all Republicans. Everyone's too scared to get up and do that. They're afraid of repercussions from the Republican Party, I guess."
If elected, Macagnone said he would work to make the Town of Oyster Bay a better place for the next generation, and to encourage more participation from residents in their town government and communities. "It's time to give regular people a chance," he said.