Civic Leaders In Merrick Ask, "Does It Take A Village?"
Some Say "Yes" In View Of Shortcomings of Town Government
The last village to incorporate in Nassau County was Atlantic Beach in 1962, and even then, thanks to a law that reserved jurisdiction for zoning to the Town for all villages incorporated after 1927, Atlantic Beach had to rely on the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals to control development within its own borders. A hard-fought victory in a lengthy court battle, and the formal nod of the Nassau County Legislature, finally gave Atlantic Beach the right to control what gets built within its own borders (sorry, Mrs. D'Amato), setting the stage for unincorporated areas within the township to consider the pros and cons of village life.
The most recent community to enter the discussion of whether or not to incorporate is Merrick, whose civic leaders now look to balance government responsiveness against the creation of more government.
The story first broke this week in the Merrick Herald (Village of Merrick? Local Civic Leaders Weigh Incorporation), where Joe Kralovich, President of the Old Lindenmere Civic Association, was quoted as saying, "Everyone has trouble communicating with the Town of Hempstead. There seems to be a dysfunction there. It's our lowest level of government and has 160,000 constituents. Maybe that's just too much."
Dysfunction in the Town of Hempstead? Ya think? Actually, there are some 760,000 residents in the Town of Hempstead, and every one of them - save the 323 Republican Committeemen on payroll - has trouble communicating with the Town.
Prior to Atlantic Beach gaining the right to make its own decisions on zoning matters, there was little benefit to incorporation. After all, if you have no control over who builds what where, and enforcement remains the province of the Town (the folks who appear to have no control, and even less desire to enforce), why bother going through the trouble, and possibly, the expense? Now, with precedent having been set by Atlantic Beach, why not explore the possibilities?
After all, residents could continue to "pay to play" for the County and Town services they desire to keep, such as police protection and garbage collection (although, given the outrageous sums paid by taxpayers for the services offered by some of the Town's Sanitary Districts, one would have to be a village idiot to sign on), while taking upon themselves the critical roles of zoning, development and enforcement.
Few would argue that while the problem of illegal accessory apartments, for instance, exists in the incorpoated villages, the differences in enforcement and outcome between, say, the Incorporated Village of Garden City and the unincorporated stepchild of West Hempstead, are night and day.
You don't see the no-tell motels, the abandoned vehicles, the cars parked on the sidewalk (or curbside, block to end-block, 24/7), the haphazard development of "downtown" in a village. The responsiveness of governance by your neighbors -- literally -- rather than the "if not today, tomorrow" reaction of a Town Hall that, for all intents and purposes, could just as well be in Hemel Hempstead, England, is truly something residents have to consider.
Of course, you would't need the villages -- with their own set of problems, not to mention taxes -- if the Town of Hempstead was to be proactive rather than reactive; if the response to citizen concerns was, "We'll take care of that today," and not, "We'll talk about it tomorrow."
"We would turn everything over to the town, except that we'd enforce it," Barry Fox, President of the Merrick Park Home Owners Association, told the Herald. "We'd try to increase zoning regulations to improve the quality of life in the Merricks, and it wouldn't cost residents any more than they're paying right now."
Ah yes, zoning and enforcement. Two crucial areas long-neglected by the Town of Hempstead. And now, people are beginning to talk -- and to act. Seems we're not the only ones who want to take back our Town!
- - -
Murray Mailgram Update
Seaford residents were treated to a Murray Mailgram of their very own. Four pages -- four photos of... guess who? Yes, residents learned about the Long-Horn Asian Beetle (no doubt planted on Seaford's trees by Tax Assessor, Harvey Levinson :-). Another pre-election campaign mailing at the taxpayers' expense. Hey, its your money!
- - -
Newsday Sets Residents Straight On Taxes And Reassessment
Click here to read Newsday's editorial, Don't blame the assessor. They've got it right when it comes to taxes. Come November 8th, voters should get it right, too!