Led by Trustee John Popeleski, The People’s Working Party candidates won all three open seats in Manorhaven’s elections by narrow margins, unseating Mayor Jim Avena and Deputy Mayor Rita Di Lucia in the process.
Popeleski defeated Avena 381 votes to 351.
For two trustee seats, incumbent Harry Farina with 376 votes and Monica Ildefonso with 364 eked out razor-thin victories over Dan Garcia with 361 votes and Deputy Mayor Rita Di Lucia with 359.
Avena and Popeleski have been mayor and trustee, respectively, since 2016.
“We achieved a lot during my six years as mayor and I’m very proud of our accomplishments,” Avena said. “I wish Mayor-elect Popeleski and his board the best and will help in any way I can to ensure a smooth transition.”
A $5,000 fine handed down by the village Ethics Board, which Popeleski had described as an “intricate scheme” by the board, added to the campaign’s animosity.
“[Voters] followed me. They believed in me,” said Popeleski. “And the political ethics violation, people didn’t pay attention to it.”
Popeleski had alleged that Avena and Gerard Terry, the former North Hempstead Democratic Party head, had been on a quest to get him out of the race. Avena and Terry denied the claim.
“We’re talking about trees and cars. That’s what we’re really, really talking about and it’s very upsetting,” Popeleski said. “Unfortunately, it’s like a lot of people said to me: I wasn’t set up, but one day, they would use this against me. They found their opportunity to use the whole situation against me to smear my name.”
He thanked his supporters and said that he hopes to win over those who voted against him.
Popeleski said his biggest aim is to save taxpayers their money. He also wants to continue working on the village’s sewer systems, parks and roads.
“I’m just hoping that the people who didn’t vote for me who were looking at the ethics thing, I’m hoping to win their confidence over,” he said.
Popeleski, who is openly gay, acknowledged his victory’s significance. He claimed that his varied leadership successes spoke for themselves.
“Now, to be the mayor of a village as a gay man, it’s wonderful,” he said. “I’m very, very proud to serve the residents of this village.”
The People’s Working Party will make up most of the board thanks to their victories. Farina said that, as a result, the village can start afresh.
“We really want to just clean house and start from scratch,” he said. “To start our own way to see what’s going to happen from this point forward and try to fulfill what we [told] the residents we’re going to do.”
Farina, who is entering his second term, said he wants to make the community more welcoming to outsiders. The exception is builders, who he said “enjoy our village because they seem to get away with whatever they want to.”
“Now that we have a united party, we should have a better understanding of what all of us want together,” he said. “We want a more open and visible forum for the public and the residents of the village.”
Efforts to reach Ildefonso, Garcia and Di Lucia were unavailing.