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GCPD Increases Ranks to Add Five New Officers

Residents – and Board Members – Unlock Fence Debate

At the Garden City Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, June 2, Deputy Mayor John J. Watras administered the oath of office to five new police officers. As reported back in March, the board of trustees voted to authorize the hiring of an additional five sworn patrol officers, which would yield a total of 52 sworn patrol officers in the Garden City Police Department. Separately at the meeting, residents expressed concern during a public hearing to amend a local law that would permit residents to erect fences and shrubs up to the front building line of their property.

“This is a wonderful crop … we’re very proud and very happy to have you here with us,” Watras said, referring to the five new officers, each of whom introduced himself to the audience. Two of the officers have already been assigned to orientation in the department’s patrol division, while the other three are slated to come on board in December, when they graduate from the Nassau County Police Academy.

Officers George Byrd and Jeffrey Kucheck have already joined the GCPD ranks. Both graduates of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Byrd is a nine-year New York Police Department veteran – having served six of those years in anticrime – and Kucheck was a deputy sheriff for Nassau County for three years.

Baker, Petraglia and Russell are all on target to graduate from the Nassau County Police Academy in December. Baker is a graduate of Long Island University, C.W. Post, and prior to joining the academy worked as an air export agent. Upon completing his bachelor’s degree, Petraglia owned a small business in Bellmore, and Russell worked for UPS for eight years prior to joining the academy.

After the new officers were sworn in, board members, village officials and audience members tried to hammer out Local Law No. 2-2011: “A local law to amend the code of the village of Garden City Chapters 200 and 57 thereof, to add the definition of ‘building line,’ amend the definition of ‘structure,’ to create new side yard requirements, to amend provisions with regard to accessory structures and driveways, to amend provisions with regard to site plan approvals, to amend provisions with regard to lapse permits and variances, and to amend provisions with regard to architectural design review board referral procedures, and expiration of ADRB [Architectural Design Review Board] approvals.”

In a nutshell, residents are not happy about the possibility of fences and accessory structures, such as shrubs, being installed in front and side yards. “I think that’s totally out of character with our community. I think it’s a visual disturbance, and I hope you will maintain the old code, which would only allow me to put a fence in the rear part of my property and not allow me to put it all the way up to the front building line,” one resident said.

Village officials countered that residents are not relegated to a “chain-link fence,” but can choose from a variety of styles, some of which “are attractive.” Under the current code, the halfway distance of the property is only about 10 to 15 feet back from the front of the house and can be seen now, a village spokesman said. “There’s nothing to prevent you from seeing a fence at the halfway mark. It’s not that great a difference from that location and the front building line,” the spokesman said.

A resident who lives on Hilton Avenue also expressed concern. “If you start having fences, it’ll start to look like Queens. It’s so pretty that you see continuous lawns and the code should be kept the way it is.”

While there has never been any regulation on what type of fence is permitted, a village spokesman said that a stipulation has been added that if a fence style has a “good side,” that side must face out, toward your neighbor’s property.

To be sure, the jury on the fence debate was split. Even board members questioned the proposed amendments. “I just don’t see the need to bring a fence all the way out to a building line. It’s not shrubbery … no matter what type of fence it is, it could be an eyesore. The way this is written, someone has a right to put up any type of fence,” Trustee Nicholas T. Episcopia said. Deputy Mayor Watras also voiced his opinion to keep the code the way it is.

As a result of the debate, the amendments will be written and presented at a future board meeting.

Another hotly debated topic among residents is the sale of green space and parcels throughout the village. A resident who lives on Cedar Place addressed the board and asked for their support to help prevent the sale and development of green space at the next Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, June 8. She and her committee will deliver a presentation at the meeting.