Angelo Ferrara, a 72-year-old Republican from New Hyde Park who is running for re-election to the North Hempstead Town Board, says partisanship is the most significant issue plaguing the town.
The situation is similar to what is going on in the federal and state governments, he said in a sit-down interview with Blank Slate Media.
“The town is in better shape than most other towns but needs to work together in a nonpartisan way to get things done and support the people,” Ferrara said. “Donald Trump needs to keep his mouth shut, stop tweeting and focus on the problems that exist in this country. The structure we have right now is so broken it’s sickening.”
Ferrara said that, despite a 5-2 Democratic majority on the North Hempstead Town Board, he feels confident that his voice is heard.
“I’ve demonstrated to everyone else on the board that when I look at something, I don’t do it for political gain,” Ferrara said. “There’s a high degree of trust there. [Town Supervisor] Judi [Bosworth] and I have conversations you will never see anywhere else between a Republican and a Democrat.”
Ferrara, the board’s longest-serving member, has represented the 3rd District for 18 years over five terms. The district includes New Hyde Park, Garden City Park, Mineola and Williston Park.
“The campaign is going good,” Ferrara said in the interview. “Look, I’ve been doing this a long time. Fortunately for me, especially as a Republican, I get all of the union endorsements.”
Ferrara reflected on how he has been able to get endorsements from unions like the Civil Service Employees Association.
“The first time I ran, I did not get the CSEA endorsement,” Ferrara said. “[After I took office,] there was a CSEA member who worked for the town who was fired. I asked to see her file and there was nothing bad at all about it. It turned out they just did not like her and wanted her out, instead of trying to do things the right way. I forced them to take her back with retroactive pay.”
Ferrara worked at Xerox for 20 years, ending his tenure as regional manager for technical services. He ended his business career at the Monroe Calculating Machine Co. when he took office.
“I gave up $300,000 a year for a $30,000 councilman job,” Ferrara said. “I’m doing this for the right reason, because I care, and want to set the right example for my five kids.”
Ferrara was raised in a family of Brooklyn Democrats, he said. He became a Republican because he considers himself a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. He would not say whether or not he would support Bosworth for re-election, “the same way she couldn’t outwardly support me.”
“The head of the party doesn’t support me but Republican [voters] support me. They’ve never primaried me but have threatened to,” Ferrara said. “I work too hard for the people and not hard enough for the party.”
Gerrymandering also poses a problem in North Hempstead, Ferrara said.
“This gerrymandering kills me but we keep doing it at all levels of government and that’s so sad because the losers are the public,” Ferrara said. “If we really want to win the confidence again of the public, we’ve got to make some major changes in our behavior. Judi and I are trying to set that precedent here.”
Ferrara said the next issue he hopes to attack on the Town Board is the Building Department’s system of giving permits, which he said “is not user-friendly.”
“I’ve asked for a meeting with Judi and the commissioner to go over what I think needs to change for it to run smoother,” he said. “There are a lot of stupid rules on the books that don’t need to be there.”
Ferrara said it takes months to get permits when it should take weeks, and he said the department is understaffed.
“The things that aren’t important are causing a lot of workload delaying the people that do need important permits,” Ferrara said. “We’re going to be going through every one of those laws to see what we can eliminate.”
Bosworth and Ferrara discussed raising fees for permits six months ago, he said. Ferrara said he supported the increase as long as the funds raised were only used to hire for the Building Department.
“She gave me that commitment,” Ferrara said. “That’s what’s supposed to be happening but we haven’t really hired the people yet.”
Ferrara said the town could take a more significant role in promoting business districts in its villages. He said Bosworth “has the personality” to collaborate on revitalizing closed storefronts in failing business districts.
“There are all these different fiefdoms and everyone has their own agenda. They don’t want anyone coming in and treading on that,” Ferrara said. “You have to form a partnership with them. [Former Town Supervisor] Jon Kaiman would have come in like a bull. Judi has the personality to do it.”
Ferrara said that options for redevelopment of failing business districts includes providing more mixed-use options, where young professionals can live above mom-and-pop shops.
“The population isn’t shrinking. It’s only increasing,” Ferrara said. “We need to find ways to better accommodate” young professionals.
Ferrara’s motivation to continue is that “there are so many people that need help,” he said.
“I cut through red tape,” he said. “As a businessman, I get things done.”