Chimenti, Wendling face off in Garden City Park Fire, Water District commissioner race

Chimenti, Wendling face off in Garden City Park Fire, Water District commissioner race
Peter Chimenti, left, and Joe Wendling, right. (Photo courtesy of the candidates)

Peter Chimenti and Joe Wendling, the two candidates running in next week’s election for Garden City Park Fire and Water District commissioner, have clashed over how to modernize the Garden City Park Fire Station No. 2 on Denton Avenue and spend money.

Earlier this year in September, district residents voted down the chance to bond for $5,900,000 to renovate the Garden City Park Fire Station No. 2 at 11030 Denton Ave. in Garden City Park.  If the vote passed, it would have rebuilt the firehouse that was first built in 1970 to fit today’s regulations and provide additional space for the first responders, among other things.

Chimenti said the board sent out flyers and notices to the district ahead of the vote but admitted that “mistakes were made”, specifically regarding the lack of public feedback and getting more input from residents. 

“We always look at our capital plan to see down the road what may be needed,” Chimenti. “We do it in both districts, we’re not going to be nearsighted and are projecting what we need further down the line.”

Chimenti also said the station is both old and in disarray and that the district is still considering new proposals and evaluating whether or not to look at alternative plans, if needed, for renovations.

Wendling said he is running to “stop the foolish spending” and called the Denton Avenue firehouse perfectly fine. He also added that volunteer numbers are too low to justify building a new firehouse right now. 

“To me, it’s just foolish,” Wendling said. “We can’t get young kids out to calls during parts of the day because it is a nightmare to get to Denton through all the traffic.”

Wendling said the firehouse does need some upgrades, but does not need to be completely demolished and that it currently has room for more vehicles, recreation space and offices, among other things.

Wendling also said that despite the bond vote being rejected by 77% of voters, he fears the board is considering using much of the district’s reserve fund to build a new firehouse. 

Chimenti, of Herricks, has served the district since 2014. The district elects one commissioner every year to serve three-year terms. The other two commissioners on the board are Alan Cooper and Robert Mirabile. 

Wendling, of New Hyde Park, is a recently retired private investigator for the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District, the same role he had in the Herricks School District over a decade ago.

Wendling is also a former NYPD detective, a position he retired from in 1987 after over 18 years on the police force after having enlisted in the Marines in 1966. On top of his police service, Wendling was previously the director of operations of Mount St. Michael’s Academy in the Bronx.

The challenger ran for the vacant seat last year against Mirabile after then-incumbent Kenneth Borchers did not run for re-election, losing by one vote. 

The district covers parts of Garden City Park, Manhasset Hills, parts of New Hyde Park, parts of Mineola, parts of North Hills, parts of Roslyn, parts of Williston Park, parts of Albertson and parts of Garden City. The fire district’s budget for 2024 is $3,760,000 and the water district’s budget is $7,305,360.

The water district was founded in 1922 and serves approximately 6,500 residential and 650 commercial customers, according to its website. The district pumps an average of 1 billion gallons of water a year to its customers and has six wells, two water storage towers, four underground storage tanks and six treatment plants.

The incumbent said in the last three years the water district has gotten over $10 million worth of grants to update and modernize the district to recently implemented standards from the state. For the fire district, Chimenti said the board was able to secure $276,000 in grants for new equipment. 

If re-elected, Chimenti said his focus would be on modernizing both districts, increasing recruitment and enhancing the fire district’s paramedic program which has been full-time since the COVID-19 pandemic. Since being on the board, 17 out, of 18 budgets have been under the state-mandated 2% tax cap, Chimenti said.

“I would make sure we keep under the tax cap to not burden the taxpayers,” Chimenti said. 

Chimenti said he hopes voters re-elect him to another term because of his honesty and integrity. He added that Wendling previously said regarding the firehouse proposal that the department would have to tank land from the neighboring Herricks school district to accommodate for the added space, which is untrue. 

Wendling said he argued that if the district was going to build a firehouse that was twice the size of the original, it would need to provide additional parking space that is not available on the current property. 

Voting will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 333 Marcus Ave., Garden City Park between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

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