Tom Tweedy, former mayor of Floral Park, is challenging Tom Muscarella in the Town of Hempstead’s 2nd District race. The district encompasses Bellerose Terrace, Floral Park, Garden City, Garden City South, New Hyde Park, Salisbury, South Floral Park, Stewart Manor, and portions of Bellerose, East Meadow, Elmont, Franklin Square, Hempstead, Uniondale and West Hempstead.
Muscarella was appointed to the seat in April, after former Town Councilman Edward Ambrosino pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges and resigned.
Recently, the Herald sent questions to both candidates on issues that might be of importance to local residents.
Herald: How would you improve road safety on Dutch Broadway?
Tweedy: One of the first tasks in finding solutions is identifying the problem. Dutch Broadway is an undulating road with limited sight distance, which links Queens and Nassau counties. As a four-lane road, speed has been, and continues to be, the biggest problem in the area. Supervisor (Laura) Gillen has already begun important initiatives to address speed on Dutch Broadway by requesting a lowered 20 mph speed limit as well as the installation of new illuminated speed signs and additional signage.
I would also meet with the Nassau County Department of Traffic Management to discuss additional traffic calming solutions they might suggest, such as new striping and signage. Additionally, I would initiate and extend awareness discussions to the unique issues associated with Dutch Broadway among the school administrations, Parent Teacher Associations, Nassau County Police Department and local community leaders. Lastly, I would speak with civic associations, and ask parents to model good-driving behavior and slow down when schools are open.
Muscarella: Dutch Broadway is a county roadway and is under the primary jurisdiction of Nassau County. Nonetheless, I am committed to making Elmont Road a safer street for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. The township has worked with the community to install more traffic calming signage, including speed limit signs, traffic crossing signs and no U-turn signs. Further, we received community input on a county traffic survey that has resulted in the installation of flashing “school zone” signs at the local elementary school and high school.
I believe that additional driver feedback signs, such as illuminated signs that display the speed at which motorists are traveling, are needed on Dutch Broadway. I will also work with the Nassau County Police Department to request an increased police presence at Dutch Broadway School during student drop-off and pick-up times. The traffic during these periods present increased hazards for children. I will push for traffic studies on additional crosswalks, reduced speed limits and other traffic calming measures. There have been calls for at least one new traffic light along Dutch Broadway (near The Meadows), which was denied by the county. I will also look to secure state grant funds for illuminated crosswalks, which have proven effective in other communities. Finally, I am interested in a public information campaign to increase awareness of the dangers of speeding along Dutch Broadway, as well as Elmont Road.
Herald: Elmont’s parks are in disrepair. What would you do to improve their conditions?
Tweedy: Elmont’s parks have received minimal capital improvements and have not been consistently maintained for many years. One of the promises of suburban life is the enjoyment of our parks by our children and our community. Parks should be a source of community pride and improved home value. The Town of Hempstead has many beautiful parks — yet few exist in Elmont.
I would request the formation of a Recreation Advisory Committee from the community, comprising all those who enjoy our parks— moms with strollers, youth leaders, seniors and others—to discover what works and what the community needs are. Simultaneously, I would ask that an inventory and scorecard of our Elmont park facilities be taken, and develop capital planning for needed park improvements. Capital planning allows for effective budget planning, community engagement and clearly defined goals and timelines for improvements.
I will always advocate for Elmont’s fair share of the recreation budget. Elmont’s parks should be, and can be, as beautiful as those in other parts of the town. I will see that that happens by building partnerships between the community and our hard-working recreation professionals.
Muscarella: Hempstead Town has invested in our parks, but I am committed to making significant additional upgrades and safety enhancements. One of the exciting new upgrades scheduled for a park near my district in Elmont is the installation of a spray pad and refurbished bathrooms at Elmont Road Park. Security cameras are also proposed for the facility, along with upgrades to the court surfaces. We have recently completed a $1.2 million embankment stabilization project around the perimeter of the park, replete with new shrubs.
The Dutch Broadway Athletic Complex has been plagued by chronic flooding, making the use of playing fields difficult. In the last couple of weeks, we have installed 200 feet of drainage piping and new water pumps. The town is also awaiting the delivery of soil to raise the level of the playing field in the immediate future.
At Averill Boulevard Park, a major drainage project is scheduled to be completed within the next couple of weeks. Upon completion, exercise stations will be installed along the pathways. I am also advocating for resurfacing of the court areas at Averill Boulevard Park and I will work with the local civic associations surrounding Hendrickson Park to create a more family-friendly and safe park. I would like to see safety lighting, and improvements in harmony with the priorities of its neighbors.
Herald: The current town budget anticipates $8.5 million in expected savings from planned early retirements. The supervisor has criticized this as being overly speculative. Do you believe this is a proper budgeting strategy, and what could be done at the end of the year if there is a budget shortfall?
Tweedy: This budget gimmick of ‘less savings,’ which is credited for providing this so-called surplus, is conspicuously unique to the Town of Hempstead and its practice as a budget tool needs to end. Current Councilman Bruce Blakeman confessed that ‘less savings’ is a fiscal shell game, saying, “Less savings is a way to pad money and hide money by removing it so there’s a surplus next year, so whoever is running can say they’ll save taxes.”
‘Less savings’ does not include costs and expenses relating to replacement hire’s salaries, nor does it include separation payments. I would end the gimmickry of ‘less savings’ and provide an honest budget on all projected revenues and expenses. Budgets never change — but actual costs do. The taxpayers of the Town of Hempstead need to have confidence that the budget presented is an honest budget based on facts, not gimmicks. That’s how we truly put taxpayers first.
Muscarella: The 2019 town budget includes savings associated with vacancies. This is an accepted and time-honored practice that is provided for in governmental and private sector accounting. Clearly, the supervisor has been convinced of the efficacy of this practice, as she has budgeted for savings associated with vacant positions in her proposed 2020 budget. In specific, the 2019 budget accounted for 100 vacancies and is very close to that target amount at this time. What’s more, the adopted budget added $ 8 million to reserves, and, several revenue areas will exceed 2019 budgeted amounts. Moreover, I am very confident that the 2019 Town of Hempstead budget will meet budgeted amounts and will add to the municipal fund balance, evidencing a very conservative and sound fiscal document.