Sunday, January 22, 2006

"We Have To Redesign The Community..."

Everyone Needs To Be On The Same Page

To make a difference in Elmont (as in every community), everyone - the residents, Town, County, Sanitation, Police, Fire, Schools, houses of worship, businesses, State and Federal government - needs to be on the same page. That was the consensus of the remarks made at the well-attended January 3rd meeting of the Elmont East End Civic Club (EEECC).

Attendees, including many from other Elmont civics, also heard words of support and commitment from elected officials, and an announcement that the State Legislature had approved Elmont as one of the state’s Empire Zones.

"How do we enhance Elmont? How do we get it to grow as a sensible economy? How do we stop the proliferation of illegal apartments contributing to the oversaturation of the community - an over-saturation that has reached a volume detrimental to community atmosphere, and drains resources.? How do we provide affordable housing that won’t further burden the taxpayers?"

These are questions, not only for Elmont to resolve, but also for the entire county where the number of illegal multiple dwellings is growing by leaps and bounds and the tax burden is forever increasing.

Discussion around these issues brought out the public to the meeting to hear how we can all work together to make things happen here in Elmont - to reinvigorate the community.

After listening to comments and hearing from Town and County representatives, an enthusiastic Sol Marie Alfonso Jones, from Sustainable Long Island (SLI) - a group invited to get involved in the process to help create partnerships that can to work effectively to empower Elmont residents to work for and implement plans for a dream community - said she was encouraged and psyched for all of Elmont. “This evening you have heard Town, County and State support for re-invigorating Elmont. Your elected officials are hearing you.”

EEECC President Pat Nicolosi invited town and county officials, as well as SLI, to attend as part of an ongoing effort to address the needs of Elmont by involving all the levels of government.

"What is the county doing to address the serious issues of illegal housing, exorbitant property taxes and the need for smart economic growth?" That’s what EEECC members asked Patty Bourne, from the Nassau County Office of Economic Development.

Bourne reported that the County Executive had held meetings in 35 communities around Nassau over the past 3 years regarding needs and economic growth. County Executive Tom Suozzi, she said, is appropriating $1 million to be divided among the communities based upon need and willingness to get involved.

Bourne also noted that the county is hearing about the tax burden in all communities. Outlining some strategies for bringing businesses to the county, Bourne indicated the county can “look to New York City to attract businesses,” and assist with affordable housing needs for senior citizens and business employees.

“Who’s going to subsidize this affordable housing? Me? I’m all tapped out,” said one resident.

Bourne went on to say the County doesn’t believe Nassau gets its fair share under the present state aid for education formula. The County is working with school districts to look at readjusting that formula.

Elmont schools are doing very well, and were recently cited in a recent NY Times article “Elmont’s School Success Is a Lesson to Others.” But taxpayers are picking up the burden of increased enrollment with many of those new students coming from illegal multiple dwellings. And the cost of all services is increased and passed onto property owners with single-family homes absorbing the biggest burden.

“The governments have to realize there is a problem,” said Elmont resident Peter Foltmer, who also commended Nicolosi for “rattling their cages.”

Town Councilman Ed Ambrosino said, “We’re in a crisis situation. We have to rebuild in a smart way. We have to attract business that will be here for a long time.” Acknowledging EEECC’s “phenomenal community involvement,” Ambrosino said there is a need to get people to care about our community.

Ambrosino’s message was clear: Governments must join hands and work together. They must put aside political labels and rhetoric to make this work. “We have to redesign the community,” he stated, noting that it had like most of Long Island, just happened. “We need to start again and rebuild Hempstead Turnpike.”

Regarding illegal basement apartments, Ambrosino said, “We’re all victims in this situation. Only the landlords are the winners.” The Councilman assured that his office acts on all reports of illegal housing. “It’s not the role of other residents,” said Ambrosino, to subsidize landlords.”

“If I had the ability,” said the Councilman, “I would single-handedly remove every illegal basement apartment in Elmont. These apartments drag down the community.” Ambrosino noted, however, that there are others in the community advocating for these apartments.

Residents also cited lack of enforcement of traffic and parking rules, as well as building codes as a big part of the problem.

“Your elected officials are hearing you,” said Alfonso Jones of Sustainable Long Island, who is reaching out to all levels of government to get them involved. ” With an RFP (Request for Proposals) from the Town and money from the County, I believe that by the end of the year you will see things happening here in Elmont.”

It should be noted that Assemblyman Tom Alfano and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy have pledged support for an enhanced Elmont.

Written by Cathy Ferrigno, Editor-in-Chief, Elmont Herald. Republished with permission.
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