Lynbrook village election candidates gear up for March 7 debate

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The Lynbrook Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters will host a Meet the Candidates Night and Debate for those running in the upcoming village election at the Lynbrook Public Library on March 7, at 7 p.m. All residents are welcome.

Election Day is March 19.

The mayoral race has been hotly contested in recent months, with Deputy Mayor Hilary Becker mounting a vigorous campaign to unseat Mayor Alan Beach, and Beach and his supporters hitting back hard.

Beach and Trustees Ann Marie Reardon and Robert Boccio are running on the New Vision Party line, while Becker and trustee candidates Antoniella Tavella and Steve Ligouri are running on the Preserve Lynbrook Party line. At press time, independent candidate David O’Neill was awaiting word on whether he would be on the ballot. A decision was expected by Friday.

On Feb. 6, the New Vision Party held a news conference to take aim at Becker, claiming that he had not been honest in his village dealings. The next evening, the Preserve Lynbrook Party hosted a campaign kickoff at McQuade’s Neighborhood Grill, attended by more than a hundred people.

All of the candidates said they planned to attend the debate, but Becker, reached by phone, said he wanted an assurance that the event would not turn into a “political ambush,” noting that chamber members and residents had unexpectedly grilled him at recent village board meetings.

“They all turned on me. They ought to be ashamed of themselves,” Becker said of the chamber members. “After all these years of me supporting them, they’ve turned on me. We’re going to be there, and we’re going to make sure it’s a debate and not the pathetic, taxpayer-funded political charade that the mayor’s been funding for the last few meetings.”

Meetings at Village Hall have lasted many hours in recent months, with residents questioning Becker about his involvement with and decision-making on the proposed $75 million Cornerstone at Lynbrook project, which the village board rejected last fall.

Last year, Cornerstone developer Anthony Bartone was to purchase the building that houses the Ledwith & Atkinson law firm, owned by former Village Attorney Peter Ledwith and his son-in-law, current Village Attorney Tom Atkinson, on St. James Place. The complex was to house rental apartments and a parking garage for residents.

Surrounding the property are four other buidings that were owned at the time by the Becker family. Hillary Becker had negotiated to sell the properties to Bartone for $2.6 million, but talks eventually stalled. The deputy mayor has since come under fire because he did not return a disclosure letter that Beach sent to all village officials, asking them to reveal potential conflicts of interest with the Cornerstone proposal. All other board trustees responded to the request.

Atkinson returned his disclosure and recused himself from serving as village attorney as Lynbrook officials reviewed the Cornerstone project. The sale of Atkinson’s property to Bartone was not contingent on approval of the Cornerstone project, but Atkinson and Bartone have yet to sign off on the sale.

With oversized copies of their disclosure letters behind them in the parking lot where the Cornerstone was to be built, Beach and New Vision Party trustees spoke at the Feb. 6 news conference about the need for greater transparency. “Every resident has the right to demand that each person on the village board has the residents’ best interest at their heart — not their own,” Beach said.

Bartone provided copies of contracts that were drawn up to purchase the properties in question from Becker for $2.6 million. Becker said at a recent village meeting that there never was a deal to sell, but later acknowledged that contracts had been drafted and he never signed them.

“They’re trying to run from the Cornerstone,” Becker said of his opponents. “They’re trying to say somehow it was my deal and that I killed my own deal, which doesn’t makes sense. They have yet to show any documents with my signature on them with Bartone.”

Boccio said the New Vision Party called a news conference, in part, to discuss “the troublesome lack of transparency on the part of [Becker] that has resulted in numerous village residents to question not only this board member’s truthfulness, but also request that the board provide answers to these concerns.”

Becker said he spoke with Bartone at the urging of Beach, but the talks did not lead to a deal because Becker wanted Bartone to construct condominiums, not rental apartments. He eventually sold his properties to developer Bradford Mott for $2.6 million last July. Members of the New Vision Party said they believed Becker would work with Mott to develop the site in question if he were elected mayor.

“We have no information regarding the sale of these properties,” Reardon said. “We have no information on any written or verbal agreement that may exist between Trustee Becker and Bradford Mott. There are questions residents are asking us, and we cannot answer.”

Becker said he had never met Mott, and had only spoken with him once. He added that he did not intend to develop the properties with him and wanted nothing to do with them, which, he said, was why he sold them. He said his issues with the Cornerstone had nothing to do with his failed deal with Bartone, and that he disapproved of it because it was a no-bid deal that would have caused a parking issue during construction and burdened taxpayers with an expensive payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement.

David O’Neil said he would bring his own ideas to the board if elected, and wouldn’t be tied to a party. He said he planned to attend the March 7 debate, whether or not he is an approved candidate. “I’ll be there either way,” he said, “but I’m hoping to be on the ballot.”

At the Meet the Candidates Night, residents will be able to submit questions to the candidates by filling out cards, which will be reviewed by moderators from the League of Women Voters.