Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck), who is in her third term as Nassau County legislator for the 10th District, is running for re-election against Helene Sherman (R-Great Neck).
“I treat the campaign the same each year,” Birnbaum said in a sitdown interview with Blank Slate Media. “I go door to door, talking with residents, and do the same things any other candidate would do.”
The district covers Manhasset, Manhasset Hills, North Hills, Searington, Herricks and the nine villages of Great Neck.
Birnbaum said that some of the pressing issues in the district revolve around safety, taxes and downtown revitalization.
“Safety is one of the big things I’ve heard from residents this year,” she said. “Making sure we take care of public road maintenance is something we take very seriously. We have also been conducting traffic studies to keep pedestrians and drivers safe from each other.”
According to Birnbaum, a traffic study has examined roads from Kings Point to Manhasset. She will attend a meeting in November to go over results before they are released to the public.
Health and wellness safety has also been a hot topic since the state banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, a step that has not gone into effect because of a court ruling.
Birnbaum said that she has heard many anecdotal accounts of health issues that have stemmed from vaping, and that the toxic chemicals can seriously damage lungs.
On the subject of taxes, Birnbaum said that she met with some mayors in her area when people received tax impact notices.
Some of the mayors said they believed that their villages had been incorrectly reassessed, she said.
“There was a lot of give and take, but people knew that they could go in and challenge their assessments if they wanted to,” Birnbaum said. “I believe the work that Laura Curran and David Moog did was necessary because the freeze was on too long. I wanted to make sure we got a qualified assessor, and I believe we did.”
Birnbaum also said it is “ridiculous” that, under the assessment bill of rights that was approved by county lawmakers on Sept. 23 the appointed assessor must live in the county. The measure did not take effect because the county Legislature failed to override Curran’s veto.
“That same meeting that came for a vote, we had approved someone heading up an agency who didn’t live in the county. No other position has that requirement,” she said. “I think putting together that bill of rights right before an election date, it seems a little suspect to me.”
Birnbaum also said she is in favor of the tax phase-in, as it would be a good way for taxpayers to ease in for those who have been underpaying and overpaying.
Though the proposed mixed-use development for the Macy’s site in Manhasset does not lie in Birnbaum’s district, she said she believes that there is potential to build something there.
“I think that people are looking for open space to build and increase the tax base, so I’m not totally against it,” she said. “But it would need to be in an area that could sustain development like that, and that corner with more traffic could be even more of a nightmare.”
While downtown revitalization planning tends to be on the village and town levels, Birnbaum said government on all levels should reflect the county executive’s motto of “Live, work play.”
“You have to find a median where people that live here or want to move here have that quality of life where you get some of everything,” she said. “We have to look into the future and make a place where kids would want to come and live because right now it’s the exact opposite.”
In regard to business, Birnbaum said that the shopping habits of most everyone have adapted toward online sellers. She also mentioned that the county is projecting $14.5 million in sales tax revenue from the internet in 2020.
“People’s shopping habits have changed, simple as that,” she said. “I think in Great Neck, for example, the Village Officials Association is doing a great job of starting the discussion. I think people should open their minds to the idea of mixed-use housing as well.”
Birnbaum stakes her reputation on being a leader in the community from her time on the Temple Israel board of trustees, to being a vocal advocate for child and senior citizen safety.
“I have experience in the public sector, I love the work that I do, I love working with people, and I believe it makes me an ideal candidate,” she said. “I intend to keep using my experience to help and work with the constituents if I am re-elected.”