Written by Carol Frank and Christy Hinko Friday, 22 February 2013 00:00
“We have to wake up to the reality, that America’s first suburb, Levittown, has to be the new suburbia; when I think of the southeast part of Nassau county, It’s probably one of the only places left in the county that is consistent with the original suburban concept; it’s still working there,” said County Executive challenger, Thomas Suozzi, of Glen Cove. “It’s still the closest to our original suburban dream; it hasn’t been as ruined as other places.”
This, among myriad issues facing the county that Suozzi would work to fix if elected to the position of county executive, was forefront in the topics of a recent interview by the editors at Anton Community Newspapers.
When his own daughter went away to college, he began to wonder if she would ever come back to Long Island, not just because of the high cost of living, but whether there would be areas that would appeal to a young adult. “Suddenly, young people leaving the island became very real to me.”
Back to the county role in all this he said, “Borrowing, borrowing is the issue... Instead, we need revitalization. We need cool downtowns like Garden City, Rockville Centre and Great Neck. People live there in walkable communities with shops, restaurants and a train station...Let’s preserve open space, but let’s develop downtowns ... take derelict areas and rebuild them.”
He pointed to Hempstead saying, “It was never properly planned ... I would try to work more with local governments...Hempstead is too spread out. Build the center into a downtown and change the zoning on the outskirts.”
And then he veered into the contentious HUB situation. For starters, “It’s a disgrace we lost the Islanders.” Then moving on, Suozzi said, “It’s a valuable piece of property, some 70 acres. It’s accessible, but it’s un-walkable...Create development that connects Hofstra University, the community college, Omni Building up to Roosevelt Field Mall ... Let the developer make the money, but demand that he create an environment where a corporate office would want to be ... When I was younger, I wanted the best deal. Now, I say, let’s transform this place.”
He described the area as “little islands that could be connected by high speed busses... A private developer needs to be doing this. It’s an opportunity for office buildings, housing … we have to create places where people want to be. It’s not just about affordability.”
From one day to the next, the race for leading Nassau County out of a fiscal swamp has become super-charged as the possibility of three Democrats fighting for the county executive hot spot to oppose incumbent Republican Edward Mangano in the general election takes shape.
Suozzi in an interview with editorial staff from Anton News said, “I’m very proud of what I did governmentally, but I blew the politics...If I’m elected again, I will be a lot better politically.” Responding to a question about consolidation and his earlier efforts to eliminate some special districts, he acknowledged that, “while I believe that consolidation sometimes works, it didn’t fly politically...I wouldn’t go that way again.”
Instead, Suozzi pointed to his love for the job of county executive, solving problems and having a vision for the future. And skipping over potential Democratic rivals, his remarks focused on critiquing the current administration.
He said that a number of factors came together in making the decision to run again. “ I kept my mouth shut to give Mangano a chance to do his job,” but his concerns grew as the county continued “runaway borrowing,” increased police overtime due to force cuts, bond downgrades by Wall Street, and lack of follow-though on numerous projects.
He emphasizes that, “I was always about property tax relief and so I was asked by Governor Spitzer and then Governor Paterson to chair a commission about tax relief. Now we have the property tax cap in place....Why are property taxes so high in NYS? We spend more per student than any other state in the U.S. despite the fact that our results aren’t any better than other places ... we’re in the middle or below in some cases.”
He also laid much blame for high property taxes at New York State’s door saying, “They mandate what local governments have to do, but don’t fund any of it... I worked harder than anybody to fix property taxes. We only have three alternatives to deal with the tax burden...raise state aid, cut expenses or raise property taxes.”
Asked about Mangano’s police precinct consolidation, Suozzi commented, “It was poorly communicated with the public and it was awfully implemented and hasn’t been done fully. They make grand pronouncements and then they don’t do it. I’m not against the idea if they keep the buildings staffed and there’s a police presence in neighborhoods.”
He added that he favored the privatization of the county bus system, but thought that Mangano’s plan to consolidate sewers was a terrible plan because “it would raise rates by 3 percent every year for the next 25 years. You’d have double the sewer rates. Why is it OK to let the private guys raise rates?”
Regarding freezing tax assessments for Sandy homes, he is concerned that a 4-year freeze while they’re being redeveloped, yet staying at a frozen level, would affect the assessments and cause the property tax burden to shift to other homes in the area creating an imbalance and a greater burden. He added, “ I have no confidence in the current county administration’s competence to implement this.”
As to the idea for requiring school districts to pay certiorari claims, he said, “That’s the wrong approach. It’s just shifting the burden from the county to the school districts. I will be coming out with a detailed plan on that.”
Suozzi concluded, “If I’m the guy who helps change the direction of Nassau County... that will be enough. I would be very satisfied if I got that opportunity.”