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The Race in the Nassau County Legislature’s 3rd District

In the race for the Nassau County Legislature’s 3rd District, Legislator John Ciotti, a Republican, of North Valley Stream is running against challenger Nina Petraro Bastardi, a Democrat, of Valley Stream.
Nina Petraro Bastardi

Nina Petraro Bastardi was once president of Nassau County Young Republicans, but now she is running as a Democrat for the Nassau County Legislature’s 3rd District, challenging longtime Republican incumbent John Ciotti. Petraro Bastardi said she chose to become a part of the Democratic Party in Nassau County because it has a vision for Long Island.

“Locally, the Republicans don’t stand for what they say they stand for, especially with [regard to] fiscal responsibility,” said Petraro Bastardi, an attorney who resides in Valley Stream. “I just got frustrated that they just weren’t open to new ideas. Next generation housing is a very important issue for me. That issue is not listened to by any of the elected officials.”

One area that has been mentioned as a possible destination for housing is the Belmont Park area in Elmont. “I think we can look to make it [into] the cool downtown plan that [Nassau County Executive] Tom Suozzi has or his 90/10 plan not just in Belmont, but also the Hempstead Turnpike corridor to bring better businesses into the commercial area and also bring mixed-use housing in the area for people to live like they’ve done in other areas,” said Petraro Bastardi, referring to the county executive’s strategies for smart growth.

She feels that Nassau County has been stagnant in terms of development and believes in advocating for redevelopment. “I definitely would look at all different ideas using that Belmont area, but also it’s important to make sure there that there’s a lot of open space preserved in the Belmont area for parks and family recreation. We really need to revitalize the Hempstead Turnpike corridor. We need to increase the commercial tax base. If we have more young people living there it’s going to increase the tax revenue and help out businesses and the community,” Petraro Bastardi said.

One major problem for Nassau County property owners is a tax burden that is making it difficult for some to stay on Long Island. Some feel the consolidation of some special districts would save taxpayers money. Petraro Bastardi supports consolidation of some local taxing districts such as Sanitation District #6. She pointed out that the current law allows residents to eliminate districts they feel are inefficient. “I was specifically targeting sanitary districts, definitely not the fire districts,” she said.

If elected, Petraro Bastardi would be among the Democratic caucus in the Nassau County Legislature that has supported Suozzi’s budgets. Petraro Bastardi feels Suozzi has done a good job cleaning up the mess he was left by the former Republican administration.

But, she said, she doesn’t agree with everything Suozzi does. One example is the 2.5 percent Home Energy Tax that was implemented by Suozzi and the Democratic majority of the legislature on all forms of home energy. Petraro Bastardi said she would have voted against the tax. “We’re struggling enough and to put another tax on young couples who are trying to stay here or people like my grandfather who are on a fixed income, I would have voted against it,” she said, adding that she would side with the Republican caucus in repealing the tax.

Petraro Bastardi hopes to look for responsible development and growth to the 3rd Legislative District, where she believes some areas have been neglected.  “A lot of people in the area feel there’s big neglect for what we pay in taxes,” she said.

Besides the Democratic line, Petraro Bastardi is also running under the Working Families Party line.

John Ciotti

John Ciotti has been representing the Nassau County Legislature’s 3rd District for 14 years and has seen his share of issues but no issue is as important right now as the rising property taxes that are plaguing Nassau County property owners.

Ciotti has been critical of the county executive and the Democratic majority of the Nassau County Legislature for making it harder for county taxpayers to fiscally survive with past tax increases as well as future increases that are part of the county’s five-year financial plan. “The overall effect on our seniors and our youth is to force them out,” he said. “The seniors built this community and the youth cannot benefit from it because they’re being forced out. I voted against every tax increase since 2000.”

Ciotti points out that since 2000, county taxes have gone up 42.3 percent, including the 3.9 percent tax increase that was part of the 2009 budget. In addition, a 2.5 percent Home Energy Tax was instituted this year on all forms of home energy including oil, gas and electricity. Ciotti feels it’s disingenuous for Tom Suozzi to declare a “no tax” increase budget for 2010 while the Home Energy Tax is looming over the heads of taxpayers. Ciotti voted against the Home Energy Tax and vows to repeal it if the Republicans gain the majority of the Nassau County Legislature.

Ciotti is also concerned that the 2010 budget will have a deficit since it counts on revenues that may not be realized.

“I have never in my life seen seniors, young families or the forgotten middle class as upset as they are,” said Ciotti. “The seniors are all saying they can’t stay here anymore. The youth are telling me that they are working two and three jobs. People are angry; people are frightened and they want a change right now.”

Ciotti is in favor of reeling in county spending on patronage positions and freezing property assessments in order to fix a broken assessment system. He was part of the Republican caucus that proposed freezing property assessments.

Ciotti also believes the county budget can be trimmed by $23 million by eliminating patronage positions. “They haven’t cut the six-figure employees. They’ve cut the people working in the parks, the laborers and the crossing guards. [Mr. Suozzi] will say there are 1,000 fewer employees. I say those were the people that beautified our parks who were making the lowest incomes in the county. He didn’t touch any of the higher echelon employees,” he said.

After years of serving in the county legislature, Ciotti still enjoys the job because he likes to fight for the community like he had to this year to restore youth programs that received budget cuts. In Elmont, critical funding was restored for Gateway Youth Outreach to hold its summer program. He also enjoys helping constituents with issues that are pertinent to their neighborhoods. “Simple adjustments for quality of life issues end up helping numerous people,” he said.

Ciotti is in favor of beautifying the 3rd Legislative District. He currently has a $3.4 million project under way to beautify Elmont Road, Dutch Broadway, Linden Boulevard and Corona Avenue. By beautifying the area, Ciotti hopes it will keep stores there and generate business.

“I look at the 3rd L.D. as human beings trying to make a living, trying to raise a family, trying to have quality of life,” he said.

Besides the Republican Party line, Ciotti is also running on the Independent and Conservative Party lines.