Comment By Counsel For Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 1 Sparks Controversy, Concern
We already knew, well before last week's election for Commissioner in Sanitary District 1, that anti-Orthodox sentiments were running high in the Five Towns, this on the heels of the defeat of the Lawrence School District budget, and the election to the School Board of what amounts to an Orthodox majority.
Still, even we were taken aback by comments made to the local press by counsel for SD1, Nat Swergold, after sitting Commissioner Joseph Candella handily defeated challenger Jeremy Merrill, a member of the Orthodox community.
Swergold, of "extra trucks in service to collect bread during Passover" fame, is reported to have told the Nassau Herald that "The Orthodox are very well organized. It could be a continuation of other voting patterns. Look what they've done with the schools."
"I'm shocked that counsel for a public entity would make such a remark," said one Woodmere resident. "To even intimate that the 'interest' of the Orthodox is to 'take over' the sanitary district, and that the goal of Jeremy Merrill was parochial in nature, borders on the anti-semitic."
If Nothing more, the latest "Swergoldism" crosses the line of that which is appropriate.
While we at The Community Alliance take issue with the motives of the Orthodox community in Lawrence in voting down a sensible budget and in "packing" the School Board, we can see no such inclinations here, where the issues -- including financial oversight and public accountability -- were clearly the motivation for Mr. Merrill's run.
On the other hand, we do not, and should not discount the anti-Orthodox vote that obviously came into play in last week's Sanitary District 1 election, which, concededly, turned a tide in favor of Candella into a tsunami.
"I find it rather odd," said one Lawrence resident who offered comment for this blog only on condition of anonymity, "that a sanitation district operated, more or less, by the modern-day equivalent of fascista, would, through its attorney, accuse the Jewish community of looking to take control of the district. You are damned if you take an interest in your community, and damned if you don't!"
As there is no place for hate on our Long Island, there is no place for casting aspersions or attributing false motives. Certainly, words that conjur up memories of an earlier time, when hate wore a Swastika, and blame for a nation's woes fell upon the shoulders of minority populations, have no place in the Town of Hempstead's Sanitary Districts.
For Nat Swergold, a public employee serving on our tax tab, to use language such as "look what they've (the Orthodox Jews) done with the schools" to rally resentment and foster fear is nothing short of reprehensible. For us, as citizens, to have let such a remark pass without either notice or rebuke, would have been unconscionable.
More than eyebrows should be raised here, and the reverberations should reach far beyond the confines of the fiefdom known as Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 1.
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SEE also, Newsday's Incumbent Wins Election