Editorial: DeSena goes rogue on town projects

Editorial: DeSena goes rogue on town projects

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena held a press conference Wednesday to announce that $9 million will be allocated toward five different infrastructure projects in the town using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The projects included $3.1 million to connect Plandome Road businesses in Manhasset to a public sewer system – a long-needed project for both environmental and economic reasons.

“These projects will help repair, maintain and expand critical infrastructure throughout our town and significantly improve the quality of life of our residents,” DeSena said.

We strongly agree with DeSena — at least about the Plandome Road project — on the need for infrastructure work.

But there were two problems with DeSena’s announcement.

The first is that the projects have not been approved by the North Hempstead Town Board, which means they were not authorized.

As a town supervisor, DeSena has no authority under the law to allocate money without board approval. She is just one of seven members of the town board with Democrats holding four of the seven seats.

The Democrats were not happy.

“The supervisor cannot unilaterally determine what projects we spend that money on. The Town of North Hempstead is not a dictatorship,” Town Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “These decisions must be decided by board resolution, and all seven of us have one equal vote. It is disappointing that Supervisor DeSena called a secret press conference announcing her wish list instead of communicating with her colleagues to ensure she would have the necessary support.”

Lurvey said she had submitted a resolution for use of the funds on Oct. 25 to be discussed at the board’s Nov. 17 meeting.

Then with no notice DeSena, she said,  “held a press conference saying she put something on the agenda. She never talked to me about it and we didn’t have any formal discussions regarding the use of these funds.”

DeSena said that “as the CEO of the town,” she was responsible for applying to the U.S. Treasury Department with proposed plans for use of the funds.

She said she based her submission on her identifying a number of long-delayed projects that “represented tangible benefits to our residents town-wide.”

“There was no stipulation dictating board involvement prior to submission,” she said. “As with any spending item, the board weighs in when it comes before them.”

In other words, just months into not only her first year in town government but in any government job, DeSena decided she would be the sole judge in selecting which projects to fund.

And the board could later exercise its legal authority but at the risk of running into issues with the Treasury Department.

The second problem with the press conference can be explained by who was and who was not in attendance.

Standing beside her were Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Nassau County Legislator Laura Schaefer. Both are Republicans.

DeSena was a registered Democrat when she ran on the Republican line for town supervisor in 2021.

But her current sympathies became very apparent when she endorsed George Santos, an extreme Make America Great Again Republican, in the race for the 3rd Congressional District, with whom she also campaigned.

DeSena’s announcement, with her two Republican colleagues, came less than a week before Election Day. Just a coincidence?

The two Republicans’ presence could be explained by the county’s plan to fund a roadway project on Westbury Avenue in Carle Place where DeSena said the town would provide $2 million to replace sidewalks. Schaefer is the county representative for that stretch of Westbury Avenue.

But that doesn’t explain the absence of Democrats – other than the fact that DeSena had gone behind their backs to announce projects she had not been authorized to award.

There is another reason that can best be explained by an adage – hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

The funding for the town projects is provided by the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus program passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021.

The plan was intended to speed up the country’s recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.and has included direct stimulus payments, extending unemployment, moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, and child tax credits.

But the legislation was passed in Congress by Democrats on a straight party-line vote. The bill received not a single Republican vote in either the House or the Senate. Not one.

Final passage of the bill required Vice President Kamala Harris to cast her first tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Every Democrat in the House and the Senate voted for the act.

This has not stopped Republican officials across the country from trying to take credit for the type of capital projects that DeSena announced last week.

We are just happy that DeSena has not cited concerns with inflation and turned down the money.

In addition to the sewer system project in Manhasset and the sidewalks in Carle Place, DeSena’s list included $1 million for rehabilitation of the 8th and Asbury Ballfields in Carle Place, $1.76 million for improvements on Sunset Park in Port Washington, and $1.2 million for Fuschillo Park improvements in Carle Place.

Just over $1 million has already been used by the town to offset lost revenue in the Port Washington Parking District, town officials said.

We strongly urge the rest of the town board to approve the $3.1 million allocated for Plandome Road in Manhasset for the sewer project.

As Matthew Donno, co-president of the Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, told Newsday:  “This $3 million will help pay for the completion of the project along with pump systems for all of the stores.”

Donno said businesses along Plandome Road, especially restaurants, can pay as much as $50,000 to $70,000 annually to pump their septic tanks.

“Having a sewer system would help alleviate that part of the equation,” he said.

But we would like to hear what Town Democrats think would be the best use of the money not covered by the work in Manhasset.

Approving three projects totaling $4.4 million in Carle Place seems questionable in a town with many infrastructure needs.

We hope the town’s plan includes using some of the money for aiding downtown business districts other than Manhasset with a project that would provide additional parking.

Increased parking would result in increased sales tax revenue that could help later pay for parks and sidewalks while assisting ailing business districts hurt by the pandemic and the move to online shopping.

As DeSena said, the money provided by the American Rescue Plan Act can help the town address critical infrastructure needs.

This should be done in an open manner that ensures that the town gets the best bang for the buck. Not the greatest political advantage.

This story was updated online based on the receipt of additional information.

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  1. DeSena is doing the right thing. Stop this vicious attack on her very appropriate and timely proposal. Just do the work. The democrats are whining and kicking the can down the road. Meanwhile the town suffers.


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