2016: A year of change for the North Shore

2016: A year of change for the North Shore
An artist’s rendering shows what the New Hyde Park Long Island Rail Road station could look like if the third track project, first announced in January, is completed. (Photo from third track scoping document)

This has been a year of change across the country and the world, and the North Shore had its own share of shakeups.

Political leaders had their first days in court, local and national elections brought plenty of surprises, and communities grieved the deaths of dedicated leaders.

A list of the year’s most interesting stories could contain dozens, but these are the ones Blank Slate Media thinks defined the year on the North Shore and most shaped the conversations in the communities its publications cover.

1. Edward Mangano’s

Allegations of corruption had swirled around the Republican Nassau County executive’s inner circle for months before federal prosecutors came for him in October.

But Mangano defiantly denied the charges stemming from a bribery and kickback scheme with restaurateur Harendra Singh, refusing calls for his resignation from within his own party.

The arrests of Mangano, his wife, Linda, and John Venditto, the Oyster Bay town supervisor, came a year after the corruption convictions of the state’s two top legislators, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, and amid another federal investigation of Rob Walker, Mangano’s deputy county executive.

2. Third track returns

Gov. Andrew Cuomo reopened old wounds in January when he announced plans to add a third track to a key stretch of the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville.

Mineola, New Hyde Park and Floral Park vehemently opposed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s larger project a decade ago.

Cuomo’s slimmed-down proposal has gotten further in a year than that project did in three, touting benefits for communities along the project corridor and Long Island as a whole.

But concerns about construction impacts, traffic and train service remain as the LIRR prepares to hold hearings next month on its environmental study of the project.

3. Trump, Clinton
take North Shore

Reporters and political observers from across the world turned to Long Island for a day as Hofstra University hosted Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton in September for the pair’s first of three presidential debates.

Before that, the candidates made campaign stops on the North Shore. Clinton talked gun control reform in Port Washington, while Trump spoke at a GOP fundraiser in Woodbury, crediting local party officials with his win in New York’s Republican primary.

4. Gerard Terry’s
fall from grace

The North Hempstead Democratic Committee chairman lost his party post and all but one of his government jobs by the time he was charged with felony tax fraud in April.

That came after Newsday’s January report that Terry, a longtime local power broker, owed $1.4 million in back taxes, was a defendant in multiple lawsuits and let his attorney’s registration lapse.

The saga led to the revelation that the Town of North Hempstead had never enforced its own code to collect financial disclosure forms from Terry or any other local party leader, which could have alerted officials to the problems. The town implemented several ethics reforms in the following months.

5. 9/11’s 15th anniversary

With silence and song, North Shore residents remembered the neighbors and loved ones they lost on a significant anniversary of one of America’s darkest days.

At a ceremony in Great Neck, former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman recalled his “out-of-body experience” watching the World Trade Center collapse.

When someone asked him that day what had happened, he said, “America has just lost it’s innocence. It’s awakened to the reality of what is happening in the world.”

6. Port Washington’s football shakeup

Concerns about safety led Paul D. Schreiber High School to remove its football team from its regular conference and play an independent schedule against smaller schools.

Six players had suffered concussions in the prior season, and the team was not competing well against larger Nassau County teams.

Some parents called for the football program to be eliminated altogether, but administrators defended it, saying athletics are as important as the arts.

7. New North Shore reps

Republican state Sen. Jack Martins’ decision to run for Rep. Steve Israel’s congressional seat set up a heated state Senate race between Elaine Phillips, the Republican Village of Flower Hill mayor, and Adam Haber, a Democrat making his second run for Martins’ seat.

Martins eventually lost to Democrat Tom Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive, who made a political comeback and won his first election in 11 years.

But Phillips kept his state Senate seat in Republican hands with support from a New York City-based pro-charter schools group that spent heavily against Haber.

8. Great Neck’s many empty stores

Local officials say the problem used to be worse, but Blank Slate Media found about one in eight storefronts is unoccupied on Great Neck’s commercial thoroughfares.

Business leaders cited parking, an aging population and external forces such as the internet and national chain stores as drivers of the problem.

Village governments also play a role because they set rules for parking, permits and other things.

9. No Belmont casino after all

The proposition of a video casino near Belmont Park’s historic horse-racing track had hundreds of Floral Park residents concerned for their community’s safety.

Nassau Off-Track Betting Corp.’s past plans for the casino met similar opposition, but many wondered where else it would go if it was not allowed at Belmont, where, supporters noted, gambling already happens.

But state Sen. Jack Martins brokered a $43 million deal in which Nassau OTB leased its right to operate the video lottery terminals to the company that runs Resorts World Casino in Queens, keeping a casino out of Nassau.

It pleased almost everyone — until it became known that Nassau County got no revenue guarantee out of the deal.

10. Judy Jacobs’ death

The 20-year lawmaker, a Democrat who represented Roslyn Heights, was known as the grandmother of the county Legislature and a dedicated public servant.

Her death at age 77 after a fall at her Woodbury home surprised many, and her funeral drew 1,000 people who remembered her humor and love for the community she represented.

Jacobs was elected to the Legislature in 1996, the year of its inception, and was its presiding officer when Democrats controlled Nassau’s government from 2000 to 2008.

“People trusted her,” Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said of Jacobs, to whom he is not related.

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