Monday, March 07, 2005

Quality of Life as Job One!

Some months ago, Dr. Salvatore Lombardo, a West Hempstead Chiropractor and compatriot in community advocacy, penned a letter to News & Views, the West Hempstead Civic Association's print newsletter.

With profound apologies to the great (and not so great) Czars of Russia, we are reprinting the letter below, its theme relevant to our communities wherever they lie, and its implications of significance far beyond the fair hamlet of West Hempstead.

Sadly, and as a footnote to our story, Seth has not gotten the nod as Quality of Life Czar, either at the Town of Hempstead or elsewhere. He sits by his telephone, day in and day out, wondering whether the ringer is broken or the buttons on the phone on the other end just don't work. "Can you hear me now? Good!"

In the event anyone is paying attention, Seth remains interested. Its either this or a run for the School Board, we suppose. Operators are standing by...

Roy J. Mezzapelle
The Community Alliance

I have enjoyed reading News & Views over the years (I even took pleasure in serving as editor), and am intrigued by the recurring Quality of Life theme. I applaud the Civic Association, not only for keeping tabs on the many and varied Quality of Life issues, but moreover, in keeping residents in the loop. Clearly, matters such as taxes, the development and redevelopment of our business and commercial districts, the performance of our schools, the appearance of our parks, byways and open spaces and the many aspects of code enforcement are crucial in maintaining our suburban way of life. The WHCA has been riding the crest of the wave on all fronts, and having “been there and done that,” I can fully appreciate the effort and the resolve.

Over the years, the Civic Association has taken umbrage to the Town of Hempstead’s piecemeal approach to Quality of Life issues – the so-called “Band-Aid” fix – taking the Town to task to be proactive rather than reactive. I would like to add my voice to the chorus. It appears that the “knee-jerk” reaction of the Town has supplanted both short and long term planning, and problems are addressed only as they arise, with a narrow scope and little if any view of the big picture.

Why is it that the Town only treats the symptoms rather than taking a holistic approach, not only to zoning and code enforcement issues, but to long range planning as well?

With a huge surplus, and increasing tax revenues (from a greater burden placed upon homeowners), the Town of Hempstead should be leading the charge on everything from the critical illegal rental dilemma to the mundane replacement of missing street signs. Code enforcement, from building violations to sanitation issues, should be the norm rather than aberration. Instead, the onus is placed upon local civic groups, particularly in the unincorporated areas of the Town, to carry the ball.

Understandably, the Town Supervisor is engaged in the day-to-day operation of America’s largest township, not to mention a multitude of appearances, conferences and meetings. Expecting, let alone requiring the Town’s CEO to keep up to speed on the whole host of Quality of Life concerns, micro-managing each department and every aspect of Town services, is unrealistic, if not counter-productive. To ask the Town Councilman, who essentially works full-time in what was intended as a part-time position, and whose function is, first, to legislate, second, to mediate and third, to facilitate, to serve as other than a conduit between the community and Town Hall and to assume an oversight function, is similarly unworkable.

What is necessary, as I see it, is the appointment of what is in effect a Quality of Life Czar – someone well-versed in and in tune with the problems that confront communities within the township, capable of acting as both liaison and ombudsman, empowered to take action, with the blessing of the Supervisor and the Town Board, as a coordinator and administrator of the various Town departments and agencies whose very functions, at least in theory, impact greatly upon our Quality of Life.

The creation of a Quality of Life Office at Town Hall, fully funded and staffed, under the direction of a non-partisan “hands-on” executive duly authorized to call the shots, take the hits, and get things done, would greatly improve not only our daily Quality of Life, but also, would effectively lay the groundwork for tomorrow’s planning and development. As for who would be best suited for this key position, certainly, one person comes immediately to mind – our Civic Association’s own Seth Bykofsky, the scion of community activism, the consummate neighborhood advocate, the no-holds-barred promoter of Quality of Life in this hamlet and beyond, and, as those who have had the privilege of serving with him on the Executive Board could attest, one heck of a Czar!

Dr. Salvatore Lombardo

Editor’s Note: The writer is a former member of the West Hempstead Civic Association’s Executive Board and served as editor of News & Views from 1997 – 2002.

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