Readers Write: An Angst for Change on March 16

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Village government works best when its representatives seek opportunities to engage citizen participation on issues that directly affect us, our families, our homes and our neighborhoods.

We, the taxpaying public of New Hyde Park Village, learned a lot from that April 19, 2019 public hearing re: the development of the property at 300 So. 12 St. We were reminded how important it is to be informed and engaged.

However, we can only do that when elected officials include us in all aspects of the decision-making process, especially regarding proposals that may have a long-term impact on our hometown.

Despite ongoing requests by taxpayers to meet with elected officials to work through concerns about these kinds of transformative issues, it didn’t happen.

It took close to two years and countless pleas from 600-plus village taxpayers after that public hearing for the NHP Board of Trustees to finally repeal the law that enabled mixed-use development throughout our LIRR corridor.

Interestingly, that repeal came just a few short weeks prior to this upcoming village election. Rather than working together since April 2019 to proactively debate our future goals as many residents requested, we wasted two years of valuable time in a holding pattern.

We learned that the board hired ‘outside consultants’ to solicit our input and it chose participants for a “Master Plan Committee.”

Those participants were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements that prohibit them from sharing their experiences with other taxpayers. Does that sound like open and transparent government to you?

As a result of the LIRR Expansion Project, NHP has lived through quite a tumultuous last few years.  It still faces tough challenges moving forward.

Residents witness the impacts of an increasingly urbanized Nassau County, deteriorating village infrastructure, a business district that needs our support more than ever before, and over 20-plus years of one-party rule that may no longer reflect the community it serves.

According to their mission statement, the NHP Unity Party’s candidates [Chris Devane for mayor, Madhvi Nijjar for trustee, Art Savarese for trustee, and Timothy Jones for village justice] have invited “the members of our community from every background and profession to join with us to tackle the challenges of the next four years. It is only through the open exchange of opinions and ideas that the best solutions result.”https://bit.ly/3o9Bqvw

The Unity Party candidates acknowledge that their future success depends on welcoming new voices to the conversation about our future.  By providing us with clear, unbiased facts and a protocol that engages all of us in debate, the hope is we can work together to move our village forward at this critical time.

Elections have consequences.  After more than 20 years of one-party rule, I believe the Unity Party Team (Row B) deserves the chance to fulfill that pledge – as a team.

Even more important, we, the taxpayers, deserve the chance to experience a renewed sense of co-partnership in the future of our hometown. If we split the vote — we also split that vision.

I am a lifelong resident of New Hyde Park Village. Not only was I born and raised here, but I also chose to invest my hard-earned money here when I purchased my own home in the village 31 years ago.

I chose to retire here, as well. My family’s roots are founded in service to this village.  I have witnessed the work of several village administrations since the early 1960s, and I appreciate all those who have worked, past and present, to serve our community.

While I may not have agreed with every outcome over the years, I freely admit our elected officials consume many tireless hours working on our behalf.

I have witnessed some spirited elections, too.  Some of the more dynamic contests were inspired by an underlying angst for change – change in response to policies and/or practices that seemingly left too many behind.

Of course, change is difficult. It is more than just an exercise in accountability. Incumbents should not perceive spirited competition as a personal affront to their service.

Change forces us to challenge the status quo, to evaluate our present course, and when necessary, to set a new course when it better reflects the needs of the community.  That is surely nothing new.

According to the ideals established by our founding fathers, all elected officials are temporary placeholders who serve at the will of the people.

Times have changed since the ’60s. It is time that the model of NHP’s village governance evolves along with those changes, especially when the voting public demands it.

I was excited when I met with all the NHP Unity Party’s candidates.  Their open pledge to re-engage the community in stewardship is inspiring. I believe it will help to restore the public’s trust in village government, too.  I will be voting ROW B in the NHP Village elections on March 16.

 

Diane Bentivegna

New Hyde Park

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