Natiss reserving decision on filling seat on North Hills Board of Trustees

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Village of North Hills Mayor Marvin Natiss said on Thursday that he has no immediate plans to fill the vacancy left on the North Hills Village Board in the wake of trustee Gerard Cohen’s sudden death last week.

“I haven’t made any decision. Out of respect for Gerry Cohen, I won’t make a decision that quickly,” Natiss said.

Cohen, 66, was elected to a full term as trustee on June 21 and died suddenly the next day.

Natiss said has set himself no deadline to make what will be a one-year appointment to fill the post, and will consult with the village trustees prior to choosing someone. He said a special election would be held next year to put a trustee in place for a four-year term.

“There is no time frame. Whoever I would appoint would have to run for election next year,” he said.

Natiss said several people have already expressed an interest in taking the post.

In a June 23 e-mail, Roberta Popper, who lost in the three-way race with Cohen and Deputy Mayor Dennis Sgambati, said she “got numerous calls saying that since the election was so close, it would be wonderful if he appointed me.”

But she also acknowledged in the e-mail that “would not happen since the mayor was extremely upset that I was running against his slate.”

Cohen received 457 votes in the election, while Sgambati drew 315 votes while Popper pulled 293 votes.

Natiss said he had “no interest” in appointing Popper.

“I wouldn’t appoint someone who attacked my administration,” Natiss said.

Popper had run independently against the two other trustees, who ran together with Natiss on the Homeowner Party ticket. Natiss drew 542 votes running unopposed for his third term as mayor.

Poppper criticized Natiss during the campaign for not having used a $37 million village fund amassed through fees paid by developers.

Natiss has said he wants to construct a parking garage for North Hills residents who use the Long Island Railroad station in Manhasset.

Popper said the village would be better served by creating a shuttle bus service to the station that could also be used for other purposes.

“It’s certainly up to him to appoint who he wants. He knows what the votes were in the race and it’s still up to him,” Popper said on Thursday.

She said that some village residents thought – incorrectly, she noted – that based on the election results, she would be appointed to the seat.

“She has the right to run against whoever I appoint,” Natiss said.

Asked whether she planned to run in the special election next year, Popper said she was undecided.

“It’s an open question. It’s a possibility. Maybe, maybe not,” she said.

Cohen had been appointed to his seat on the North Hills board last year to fill a vacancy left when former trustee Marvin Rothenberg resigned in July.

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