Written by Michael Bruschini Friday, 29 October 2010 00:00
On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Mayor Ralph Suozzi, along with the Glen Cove City Council, and several other representatives from the city of Glen Cove, hosted a town hall style meeting at the Landing School. The up-close and informal format of the meeting allowed for a discussion on many of the issues surrounding the Landing neighborhood.
While the most discussed and debated issues at the meeting were taxes and the proposed term length changes for Glen Cove’s mayor and council after the 2011 election, there were several other hot issues specific to the Landing, which included illegal housing, the waterfront, and developments such as Lee Gray Ct.
Several residents questioned why there was an increase in the tax rate this year. Mayor Suozzi explained that when the assessed values go down, the city must increase the rate to raise the same amount. He also noted that the 2.89 percent increase in the actual tax levy was a number brought down from 12.7 percent originally. The question still lingered - some residents still asked why the city had not cut spending, or vastly reduced the workforce. Mayor Suozzi defended his administration’s fiscal discretion without rhetoric, instead presenting facts to the fiscal situation of the city.
Among the variety of solutions Mayor Suozzi brought up were new sources of non-taxpayer income, such as third party ambulance billing. The mayor also announced that a series of small cuts would be made by delaying the hire of several employees to currently open positions. In addition, he announced that the city was relieved of the operating expenses at the sewage treatment facility. Other city departments have taken steps to reduce spending, such as the police department, which has cut down on overtime 10 percent over the past three years.
Residents also brought up the issue of illegal housing. According to Mayor Suozzi, there are currently 180 active cases. One hundred twenty of them, he said, were self-correcting, 35 removed the tenants, and 12 were given “no-knock” warrants.
“We’ve found things like six families living in one house, and babies sleeping next to boilers, and we’ve taken them out of these situations Suozzi stated.” Still, Mayor Suozzi made note that while other neighborhoods in town have sent him hundreds of e-mails, the Landing has only sent three on the subject of illegal housing. Some residents expressed that many in the area have simply given up, and that new methods of enforcement could be effective.
“We feel that publicizing offenses, whether anonymously or not, could mobilize public action against illegal housing, and in a way, put ‘peer pressure’ on offenders to correct these situations themselves,” Landing Pride Civic Association President Carol Kenary said.
Mayor Suozzi concluded, “If Glen Cove and its residents do not enforce its laws, it will become the ‘weakest point,’ and will absorb most of the problems of the area.”
On that note of addressing Glen Cove’s issues, Suozzi also pitched his proposal to extend term lengths of both the mayor and city council from two years to four as of 2012 when the next administration takes office after the 2011 election. “Proposition 1,” which will be a referendum in this year’s General Election on Nov. 2, if accepted by the voters, will do exactly that - for whoever the next mayor and city council voted in is (not the currently elected officials, unless they get re-elected.) While many have voiced disagreement, Suozzi looked in retrospect to when he was first elected.
“He said, When we placed the moratorium on residential subdivisions, we said, ‘Let’s stop and figure out what we want to be… [we asked] how will schools and other city functions be impacted by these changes?’ We had to figure out exactly what it was that we needed to be, [keeping in mind] what hadn’t worked in the past.”
Although he was faced with multiple questions at once, when he later got back to the term limit issue, he alluded, “in a two year term, there’s always someone trying to get you, as you face an election cycle every 18 months. So, it’s hard to fix the problems of the city within two years. So what winds up happening is we’re forced to play ‘checkers’ [with the problems of the city] instead of ‘chess.’”
Additionally, the controversial proposal to place cell phone antennae on the water tower in between Landing School and Janet Lane was discussed. Many who attended the Planning Board meetings were also at the town hall meeting. Also in attendance was a representative hired by the city to represent them from a public health perspective. Many residents voiced disapproval over concern about public health, though the mayor noted that, as seen in the case of the recently denied tire retreading factory, these applications must be heard by law, and a mayor cannot express opinion for or against such applications by law. “The money from T-Mobile is [not very much]. We just want what’s best for the city. If we made restrictions unlawfully, we’d wind up in court, paying T-Mobile’s legal fees, and it would only delay the process.”
According to the mayor, development at the waterfront has slowed down, but would be continued with a few minor alterations. Currently, the ferry terminal is being built, for which the city received federal stimulus money. In addition, the mayor made note of a grant for the speed boxes and numerous other public safety devices placed all around town. They have proven very successful, according to the mayor, citing one speed box which out of 19,000 passers-by, only 10 percent exceeded the posted 30-mph speed limit. Additionally, he announced there was also a grant to place cameras in the city’s parking garages.
Suozzi also praised the residents who’ve recently come out to the numerous Planning Board and city council meetings. He thanked the local media for attracting the large turnout of recent city government functions, and encouraged people interested in these issues to continue attending these meetings which affect their daily lives.