Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 15 March 2013 00:00
With March 19 approaching, incumbent trustees Larry Werther, George Durham, retired NYPD cop and newcomer Dennis Walsh are set for a three-way battle for two open seats on the Mineola Village Board. Mayor Scott Strauss is running unopposed for village’s top spot.
After Jack Martins vacated the mayor’s seat in December 2010 when he won a state senate bid, he appointed Werther who in turn tapped Strauss to fill the open trustee spot. Four months later, Strauss ran a campaign for the mayor’s office.
Prior to Strauss’ run, Werther revealed exclusively to the Mineola American that he would not run against Strauss, citing his job responsibilities at a financial firm, but ran and won one of two open trustee seats.
When the New Line Party announced its slate of candidates for the 2013 village elections, Werther was puzzled to not see his name being stumped for by a party he helped found. Werther recently launched the “Mineola My Home” Party.
Durham and Werther were the lone abstaining votes approving changes to the Winston Manor Residential Complex agreement. The project was worth $92 million. Werther said he abstained because of his opposition to granting Polimeni International LLC a Nassau County-sanctioned 20-year PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) program.
Polimeni was supposed to build a parking garage. It was eliminated and the board approved the relocation of 40 parking spaces to be used for the rental dwelling.
Werther was very critical of the Winston deal, which he felt was mishandled by the board, with Mill Creek Residential Trust taking over developing rights. He claims “backroom deals” and talks unbeknownst to other members took place.
“[Strauss] threw us some contact information and expected us to reach out to the people making these overtures to the village,” Werther said. “My personal take on that and what a leader needs to do…a leaders position is to make sure they incorporate all the members of the board. That wasn’t done.”
Strauss disagreed. In what he calls personal attacks, the mayor said he was baffled as to why Werther seems to be challenging him while running for trustee and not mayor.
“In September 2010, when he was deputy mayor, I wasn’t on the board and Mill Creek presented at a hearing,” Strauss said. “He’s out of touch.”
Concerning alleged “backroom deals” Strauss said none have ever took place.
“Many, many times, it’s just myself meeting with people,” he said. “I’m allowed to,” Strauss concluded, saying on occasion, board members would be present, but not more than one. Three board members would constitute a less than quorum basis, which official action would be needed.
Durham, 49, previously ran for trustee in 2006 and was selected to run in 2011 after Thomas Kennedy did not seek re-election. He chaired the now-disbanded Downtown Revitalization Committee during the drafting of the village’s master plan. Durham still believes in that concept.
“I think we need more restaurants,” he said. “We need the residents in the village to support and keep them there. The stores that come in…the shops…it benefits the village to keep businesses there long-term. We want [the downtown] to be a destination spot. I would to see a movie theater come or something that will draw people to the downtown.”
Another concern if re-elected for Durham is restoring local spots, like taking money available from incentive zoning projects to restore parks, like the Memorial Park Gazebo and the Wilson Park snack stand.
“Keeping costs and taxes down for the residents is important,” Durham said. “Let’s make sure the budget is close to what it was last year, hopefully within the 2 percent cap.”
Walsh, 62 and a fixture in village happenings, echoed Durham’s sentiments, indicating the downtown area is key for “sprucing up” Mineola.
“Downtown revitalization is a long time in the making,” said Walsh. “The village needs to grow and one way it can continue to bring money into the hopper is to develop the downtown area.”
With development, comes tax talk. Walsh noted that most tax breaks are regulated by Nassau County. As a regular of most governmental hearings, Walsh sits-in on many committee hearings including the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency and the Nassau County Planning Committee. A culture change is in order, says Walsh.
“This IDA hearing for 250 Old Country Road, no one showed up and for the IDA hearing for the Winston, one person showed up and no one from the school district shows up at these hearings,” he said.
Walsh has been heavily involved in the New Line Party, campaigning for candidates in the past. This time around, it’s different.
“I walked many, many times with other people and I enjoyed it,” he said. “When people want to help you this time, it’s very nice. It’s something I’m not used to.”