Jennifer DeSena touts tax cuts, commitment in re-election bid as town supervisor

Jennifer DeSena touts tax cuts, commitment in re-election bid as town supervisor
North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena. (Photo courtesy of DeSena)

North Hempstead Republican Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said she wants to keep providing town services to residents in a fiscally responsible way. 

“Most important to me is that we use taxpayers dollars responsibly and provide services the residents need,” DeSena said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “I want to improve our infrastructure and make sure our parks are beautiful and safe and that they are a pleasure for all our families to enjoy.”

DeSena, of Manhasset, is running for a second two-year term and is being challenged by Democrat Jon Kaiman, the Suffolk County deputy executive who previously served as town supervisor for 10 years. 

DeSena, a registered Democrat, won her first public office in 2021 as the first Republican nominee to claim the supervisor post in more than 30 years, succeeding Democrat Judi Bosworth, who did not seek re-election.

Addressing the town building department that the Nassau County Comptroller’s office has been auditing for over a year, DeSena said she obviously would prefer that the process had been been faster but believes services have been improved as a result.

The supervisor said she has made recommendations to the building department, but it is difficult to do so and make changes without the majority support of the seven-member town board, where Democrats hold a 4-3 majority. 

“I believe that with the audit and questions being asked, there have been some improvements in the services,” DeSena said. “I’d like there to be more improvements.”

She said the town needs to update its master plan, which is nearly 35 years old, to identify the areas that should be rezoned to build more housing. DeSena reiterated her stance against Gov. Kathy Hochul’s previous proposal ahead of this year’s state budget to prioritize state-mandated zoning over local control.

DeSena, along with Hempstead and Oyster Bay Supervisors Don Clavin and Joe Saladino, denounced Hochul’s New York Housing Compact in January, which called for building 800,000 new homes over the next decade to address the state’s housing shortage. 

Redoing the town’s master plan, which DeSena said she would like to do “very soon,” would take at least a year and give residents the opportunity to be heard.

“Part of that process is holding community hearings and identifying what would be well suited for different types of housing,” DeSena said. “Then we can move forward together and consider zoning changes for those areas after they’ve been identified.”

DeSena, who has often had tense relations with Town Board Democrats during meetings, said it’s a problem when commissioners are being asked to report daily to other staff members. The supervisor said all commissioners are available for questions or information, but the chain of command is disrupted when commissioners are told to report to other employees aside from herself. 

It was not clear who is directing the commissioners to do this.

In August, Comptroller Kristen Schwaner resigned suddenly, leaving the top three positions in the Town’s comptroller department open alongside two deputy vacancies. Both DeSena and Town Democrats have blamed each other for Schwaner’s departure. 

“Some commissioners are able to work around it, but in the case of the comptroller she did not feel that she could continue under those circumstances,” DeSena said, referring to the broken chain of command.

On Sept. 29 DeSena submitted her second tentative budget that includes a 10% property tax cut and said the town is projecting a $2 million surplus in this year’s budget. She added that increasing taxes within the state-mandated 2% tax cap just because the Town can is not right and that she is returning the money to taxpayers from North Hemsptead’s tax reserves. 

“They are too high,” DeSena said of the town’s reserves. “I was able to return some of that…when you’re careful, you can spend less money.”

When asked about not changing her party affiliation prior to running, DeSena said she didn’t feel it was appropriate and issues in North Hempstead are not partisan. 

“I’ve held myself out as a person who wants to walk the center line and bring people together,” DeSena said. “I don’t think that these issues we face at the town level are Democrat and Republican issues.”

When asked about her endorsement of Congressman George Santos–who she called a friend–DeSena said she initially believed what he told her but was intentionally misled along with the 3rd Congressional District.  She said his history should have been revealed during his campaign races. 

“I believed those things that made me think he was a good candidate,” DeSena said. “Obviously I was wrong, and I was lied to. We were all lied to.”

DeSena said residents should vote for her because she is committed to the job and wants to continue working for the town in a bipartisan way for tax relief. She said she believes the biggest concerns for residents are increasing costs and being able to stay in their homes and that she wants to be able to provide that security.

“I hope people will choose me because I am dedicated, I have delivered on what I wanted to and I want to do more,” DeSena said. “Local elections have a big impact on neighborhoods and are decided by small margins so every vote counts. I’d be very grateful for the support to have another two-year term as North Hempstead town supervisor.”

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