Nicolello: Relationship with county executive continues despite differences

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Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello, a Republican who represents the county’s 9th district. (Photo courtesy of Rich Nicolello)

Legislator Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said that despite differences between the county Legislature and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, they can still work together on issues like the Nassau Hub.

“We have had our disagreements on assessment and on ICE,” he said in an interview Friday with Blank Slate Media. “But the relationship between the Legislature and the county executive has not descended to the point where we don’t agree on stuff.”

The statement came after a week where Republican legislators and the county executive were at odds over the removal of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency from the County Correctional Center and the Republican majority’s call for the resignation of County Assessor David Moog.

“We are still going to find ways to agree,” Nicolello said. “We are still going to have the routine operation of government.”

Nicolello, the Legislature’s presiding officer, pointed to the remodeling of the Nassau Coliseum and its surrounding area, which has been rebranded as the Nassau Hub, as a project where the offices have found consensus.

The Nassau Hub in Hempstead has been a focal point in Curran’s mission to revitalize Nassau County.

He called the current plans “the best chance we’ve had in my time [in the county government] that this is going to work.”

From the project, he said, the county will see revenues from rent, increased sales tax and “the ripple effect” of increased commerce in the area.

When asked why Republicans did not speak up during former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s tenure when the property tax rolls were frozen, Nicolello said “it wasn’t as if eight years went by and nothing happened.”

He said the Republicans took every opportunity they could to be involved with conducting a reassessment.

“Come to us and say you want a contract, yes we’ll give you a contract to reassess,” Nicolello said. “That’s what our power is.”

He also partly attributed the delay in reassessing during Mangano’s tenure to Hurricane Sandy, when assessors could not get an accurate value of a home because it had been flooded or damaged.

Nicolello said the criticism of the assessments being wrong for eight years tends to be overstated.

“Obviously by the end the values were clearly wrong because of the mass settlement process,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean at the beginning they were wrong.”

He said the first year or two of the freeze was relatively accurate because the values were based on relatively current information.

On the other hand, Nicolello said that Republican legislators could have called for the appointment of a certified assessor to head the Department of Assessment.

James Davis served as acting assessor from 2011 until Moog’s appointment was approved in June 2018.

But Nicolello said they did not see “the litany of errors” during Davis’ tenure that they now see with Moog.

He said what you have now is “a deliberate system that was put in place to settle these cases on a mass basis so that the county will not be paying refunds.”

He estimated that having updated assessments will save the county $150 million a year.

Nicolello said that county officials can certainly look at new ways to fund the county government.

Options include county implementation of an income tax, similar to New York City, or the possibility of town governments conducting their own assessment, as Nicolello said is done everywhere else in the state besides Tompkins and Nassau counties.

“If you get a smaller unit, fewer homes, I think you would get it more accurate,” Nicolello said.

A change to a county income tax would require a change in state law, he said.

With declining Republican presence in Nassau County, Nicolello discussed the future of the Republican Party in the county.

“One of the big things we have to do is reach out to the emerging communities,” he said.

Nicolello said county Republicans have done a bad job of trying to bring them into the party and believes that their ideologies could fit with Republicans’ beliefs.

Republicans should be able to reach them the same way that Republicans were able to reach the people who moved to the county from Queens and Brooklyn, he said.

He added that the sentiments of President Donald Trump have not aided Republican prospects in reaching immigrant populations.

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