A newcomer to the political arena is challenging a two-term incumbent next week in the Town of North Hempstead’s Council District 1.
Ursula Babino (R-Carle Place) takes on Viviana Russell (D-New Cassel) on Tuesday for the seat covering Old Westbury, Westbury, New Cassel and Carle Place.
Babino, daughter of former Williston Park Mayor Ludwig Odierna, said many of the sidewalks and town parks across the district, particularly the southern side of it, have been neglected for years.
“If you take any street in Westbury or New Cassel, drive down Westbury Avenue or any of the side streets in Carle Place, it’s been neglected,” Babino said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “What has she done for that area? I know that in my past, when I’m given a task, I’m successful in it. I’m not going to turn my back on the residents.”
Russell said since she took office eight years ago, the town has put millions into her district, including recently fencing and updating the playground equipment at Charles J. Fuschillo Park in Westbury.
Babino, a mortgage broker, said her involvement with the Williston Park civic groups until her business, Custom Funding Corp., closed in 2013 and her father’s longtime service piqued her interest in running.
Babino focused her campaign on the town’s need for a vision plan to help bring businesses into the area, especially along Westbury Avenue and Prospect Avenue. Babino said the areas are in need of small restaurants and shops to drive consumers to the area regularly.
Russell said the town’s Community Development Agency, autonomous from the board, helps lure businesses to the town. As district representative, Russell said she works with the local civic organizations when businesses are interested in New Cassel or Carle Place to make sure the potential shop or restaurant would be well-received.
“I’ve heard the concerns of the community over the past eight years I’ve been in office and even before, I was an advocate in the community,” Russell said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “I believe I know the heartbeat of our community. I know things they’re concerned about, and if I don’t know, I’m not afraid to ask and I’m not afraid to hear from them.”
Both candidates agree the town’s Building Department is often slow, and Babino said the department “makes it impossible to get building permits.”
Russell, however, said the department “has come a long way” since she took office and about 60 percent of the time, delays are because of things lost in communication between the owner and architects or engineers and not the fault of the department.
Russell said she worked closely with the Long Island Rail Road and Metropolitan Transit Authority for the planning of the third track project to make sure the commuters at the Westbury station would be taken care of.
Babino said she was concerned about the number of commuters that would try to use the Carle Place station, but Russell said a shuttle would take commuters from the Westbury station parking lot to either the Hicksville or Mineola stations.