Editorial: There is still time for some unity on the Town Board

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Editorial: There is still time for some unity on the Town Board

In her State of the Town in January, North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena touted unity and her accomplishments in her first two years.

“None of this would have been possible if we did not work together, if each of us in this room did not put aside politics and ego, roll up our sleeves and get to work for this town, said DeSena, a registered Democrat who has twice run as a Republican. “That’s why we are here. That’s why the residents of the Town of North Hempstead put us all here. We owe them nothing less.”

Perhaps DeSena was speaking of the village, county and state officials in the audience when discussing unity. Perhaps the town supervisor was being gracious and reaching out to both Democrats and Republicans on the Town Board.

But actual unity on the Town Board?

Town Board Republicans led by DeSena marked their first meeting in the majority early in January by firing five staff members who had served the municipality since the administration of Supervisor Judi Bosworth, a Democrat.

One other staffer resigned and another retired.

At the end of January, DeSena and the Republican majority voted to deny expansion plans by the Hillside Islamic Center in New Hyde Park with two Democratic councilmembers voting to approve and a third abstaining.

Town Board Republicans approved last week the hiring of an outside law firm after a lawsuit was filed by the Hillside Islamic Center challenging the board’s decision to deny its site plan proposal.

All three Democratic councilmembers – Robert Troiano, Christine Liu and Mariann Dalimonte – voted against hiring the outside law firm.

The four Republicans then capped off the evening by voting against Troiano’s hiring of a new administrative assistant for his office, which led to the councilman walking out of the meeting after the vote was taken.

This was actually not unusual for the Town Council. They have clashed frequently in the past two years. The only difference is that the Republicans are now in control.

DeSena was elected two years ago after defeating former Town Clerk Wayne Wink to replace Bosworth.

But Democrats retained a 4-3 advantage and control of the Town board under state law that gives Town Board majorities executive power, not town supervisors.

At DeSena’s first meeting back in 2022, the Democratic majority approved a personnel resolution that moved six political appointees under Bosworth to apolitical town positions. As was their right.

State law now favors town Republicans, who had the authority to fire or push out the six employees retained by Democrat councilmembers two years ago. That’s how politics works.

The Republicans also had a right to reject the Hillside Islamic Center’s expansion plans even if it raised questions of whether the Muslim worship center was being treated differently than facilities operated by other religions and what that might cost the town in legal fees.

“Sometimes the Town Board has to turn around and say ‘you know what? We’re going to get sued over it and we’re going to get brought into court; I’m going to stick up for my constituents first,’” Town Councilmember Tom Scott said.

Scott also defended the Republicans’ vote against Troiano hiring a new administrative assistant for his office.

“The candidate in question was a former town commissioner who was terminated by a vote of the Town Board earlier this year,” Scott said in an email to Blank Slate Media. ”We were of the opinion that he reported false budget information to unfairly benefit just one council district. So, it shocked us that Councilman Troiano had the audacity to try to circumvent that vote and foist this candidate onto the taxpayer payroll again.”

He added, “My colleagues and I were elected to put an end to these heavy-handed tactics and all the political theater in the world isn’t going to stop us from doing what’s right for our residents. “

This does raise the question of whether town council Republicans are simply asserting their newfound power in the majority or whether there is an element of payback for votes by Democrats when they were in control.

As they say, payback’s a bitch.

During DeSena’s first two years, Democratic town councilmembers voted to appoint their choice for highway superintendent and reject her pick for controller and multiple picks for the Town Ethics Board.

DeSena blasted town Democrats for removing files from her office at the outset of her administration and moving the offices of Republican council members.

She also claimed Democrats were “sabotaging” her by withholding support for the allocation of $3.1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to the second phase of a long-needed sewer project on Plandome Road in Manhasset.

DeSena did not help her cause when she held a press conference to announce that $9 million would be allocated toward five different infrastructure projects, including the Plandome Road project – without the required approval of the Town Board.

She also chose to make the announcement with Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Nassau County Legislator Laura Schaefer, both Republicans, less than a week before Election Day.

But there remains plenty of blame to go around for bruised feelings as there often is when one party holds a narrow voting edge.

The question is how this will impact a town with so much that needs to be done.

We are hopeful that the board will develop a plan to fix a broken Building Department that has frustrated businesses and residents alike for many years now that Nassau County Treasurer Elaine Philips has completed her audit.

After running the first time on a promise to fix the department and then punting the ball to Philips, it is now time for DeSena to make good on her pledge during her first campaign.

Likewise, DeSena has promised to develop a master plan to address the need for new housing in the Town of North Hempstead after leading efforts to oppose two proposals made by Gov. Kathy Hochul to tackle the problem statewide.

In opposing Hochul’s plan, DeSena said local officials were in a better position to address a housing crisis in New York than the governor.

Restrictive zoning laws and resident opposition have stymied new housing in Nassau County and especially North Hempstead for decades. So we will believe it when we see it.

We do think that the best chance of addressing both the shortage of housing and the Building Department’s problems would be by enlisting people and groups across the Town of North Hempstead – including Town Democrats.

Opposing a religious center’s expansion plan in a party-line vote and getting sued in the process is not a good start.

There is still time for DeSena to deliver on her promises with the kind of unity she touted at her State of the Town. But that clock is ticking.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. The correct name is Councilman ED Scott**** and this, is why we all need to go out and vote!!! Councilman Scott won his disctrict with under 100 votes. He is an embarrassment to the town with his vulgar attitude and disparaging comments.

  2. Did this publication not observe the 2 years of outrageous behavior by the then majority? Did this publication not notice the “creation” of positions by the then majority to keep Bosworth’s inner circle employed to work solely for the Democrats? The person the majority declined to rehire to be an aide was a commissioner who refused to work with DeSena. Why would she give him another opportunity? Your coverage is imbalanced and irresponsible. You do a disservice to your readership.

    • Yes, this publication did observe the behavior of both Republicans and Democrats on the Town Council and regularly published stories on what they were doing. You can search for the stories on our website, theisland360.com, to catch up if you missed them. They will show you that we were fair to both sides.

  3. DeSena’s sole accomplishment is installing an email autoresponder, beyond which she never responds. Autocracy at its best.

  4. It is unfortunate that the residents of TONH have mistakenly voted for some of the racist and vulgar individuals in the Town Council. The proud residents of this beautiful, diverse community are not safe in the hands of these guys. DeSena and Denis Walsh are the cheerleaders of the gang.

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