Mayors prepare to step away in NHP, Floral Park

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New Hyde Park Mayor Robert Lofaro will step down at the end of his current term in April. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

Voters in New Hyde Park and Floral Park on Tuesday will officially choose replacements for two mayors who have served their respective villages for more than a decade each.

Mayors Robert Lofaro of New Hyde Park and Thomas Tweedy of Floral Park are leaving office this year after helping to lead their villages through tumultuous times.

Tweedy, 60, announced plans to step down this year when he was seeking his third two-year term in 2015, one more than most Floral Park mayors have held. He was first appointed a village trustee in 2001.

But for Lofaro, 57, a gut feeling drove the decision, he said.

“I loved doing it,” said Lofaro, a 30-year New Hyde Park resident. “I love serving the residents, I love serving my community, so I’m without any question going miss it all.”

Lofaro, was first elected in 1999, when New Hyde Park was in “turmoil,” he said. The village had long neglected its roads and raised property taxes 38 percent in 1997 to cover the costs of repairs, causing an outcry among residents, Lofaro said.

Lofaro, an executive director for Santander Bank, chaired a Citizens Budget Advisory Board, a committee that authored a 29-page report outlining how the village could cut costs and put savings toward infrastructure, he said.

When the village officials largely ignored it, Lofaro decided to run for office himself, he said.

“It got to the point where if they won’t do, it then I’ll do it,” he said.

Lofaro and his fellow trustees cut $500,000 in village spending immediately and preceded to right the village’s financial ship, he said.

They also started a road repair program and began borrowing money through municipal bonds, which their predecessors had not done, he said. Since then, 75 percent of the village’s roads have been rebuilt, with more work to come this year, Lofaro said.

Lofaro said he feels confident giving the helm to current Deputy Mayor Lawrence Montreuil, who is runnning unopposed for mayor in Tuesday’s election.

Trustee Donald Barbieri, who was elected alongside Monetruil in 2001, is seeking re-election without an opponent; and Rich Pallisco, the village’s volunteer parks and recreation commissioner, is running unopposed for Montreuil’s trustee seat.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished a significant amount of positive initiatives for the village, but I realize that there’ll always be another road to pave and there’ll always be another street to plow, so the work will always go on,” Lofaro said.

Tweedy, a lifelong Floral Park resident, chose to seek a third term as mayor to oversee the completion of the village’s $6.5 million swimming pool renovation in 2015.

The new pool opened that summer, but the coming months brought several events Tweedy hadn’t expected in his tenure.

Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. announced plans for a video casino at nearby Belmont Park that December, two days after the death of Deputy Mayor Jim Rhatigan. That plan was canceled after community opposition, led by Tweedy, other village officials and Floral Park civic leaders.

And that January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans for a third track for the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville, which Floral Park has vehemently opposed.

“I want to get out before there’s a hurricane again,” Tweedy said.

Those fights weren’t new to Tweedy, he said — the village fought a 2011 plan for a Shinnecock Indian Nation casino at Belmont and the LIRR’s 2005 third track plan, both of which were later shelved.

The village won because it expressed its views passionately and rationally without resorting to shouting and name-calling, Tweedy said.

“You really have to dog it, but at the same time you don’t do it by pounding tables,” he said.

Tweedy touted his work to get a new underground drainage basin dug at Belmont Park, which he has said will resolve a longstanding flooding problem in the village’s west end. The plan is awaiting state approvals.

Tweedy has faced critics who have challenged his approach to fighting the video casino and the third track, and who have sometimes questioned the village’s slow decision-making.

He and those critics share the same goals, he said; they sometimes just get frustrated with the “glacial pace” of government. But that dynamic is healthy for local government, he said.

Tweedy commended his fellow trustees and the village administrators for working with and supporting him.

One of those trustees, Dominick Longobardi, is running unopposed Tuesday to replace Tweedy as mayor. Trustee Lynn Pombonyo is running unopposed for a second full two-year term; and Frank Chiara, a member of two village civic associations, is running unopposed for Longobardi’s trustee seat.

“This has been one of the truly remarkable adventures of my life,” Tweedy said. “… We got so much done because of the efforts of so many.”

New Hyde Park residents can cast ballots from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21, at Marcus Christ Hall, located at 1420 Jericho Turnpike.

Polls in Floral Park will be open from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesday at three polling places.

Voters in village election district 1 will cast ballots at the Reliance Firehouse on Holland Avenue. Voters in districts 2 and 3 will vote at the village Recreation Center at 124 Stewart Street. Residents of election district 4 will vote at the Atlantic Avenue Firehouse.

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