Polls will be open at Greis Park in Lynbrook from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on March 19 as candidates vie in the village election.
Mayor Alan Beach and Deputy Mayor Hilary Becker are going head to head in the mayoral race, and five candidates are competing for two trustee seats. Beach is running on the New Vision Party line with incumbent Trustees Ann Marie Reardon and Robert Boccio. Becker has formed the New Vision Party with trustee candidates Antoniella Tavella and Steve Ligouri. David O’Neill is running independently for trustee.
The Herald asked candidates in each race to answer questions about their visions for the village and how they planned to tackle the issues, beginning with the mayoral race.
Herald: Why are you running for mayor, and what would your top priority be if elected?
Beach: Taxes are my top priority. Due to the conservative stewardship under my administration, we have an $11 million surplus, which we can use to freeze taxes this year. We have an AA-plus bond rating, which helps us save when borrowing, and we have been under the tax cap for the last two years. I plan to meet with every department head to ask for a 5 to 10 percent decrease in their budget this season. I’m always exploring smart development to attract new businesses to our village in order to expand our tax base.
Becker: I am running for Lynbrook mayor because, as a lifelong resident, I feel as if we are at a critical juncture in the future of our village that could drastically impact our way of life, our quality of life and nearly every other component. The no-bid Cornerstone project opened people’s eyes to the importance of village government, which many believe was complicit in allowing this massive proposal to move forward without much community input nor the proper steps taken to ensure that we’re getting the best project done for the residents in terms of foot traffic and new tax revenues.
Herald: Why was Cornerstone not a good fit for the village, and what development would work for Lynbrook?
Beach: The Cornerstone was too big in height and number of units. I voted against it three times, just as I would have voted against Becker’s plans that he had drawn for that location and his proposed hotel project. Becker’s plan was 60 feet high. The kind of development that would be good for Lynbrook would be development that fits with its character and charm and benefits our residents.
Becker: Cornerstone, in every way, was a bad fit for the village. Look no further than the massive outcry when the three public hearings were canceled. The Cornerstone project would have been a blight on our village and a detriment to our schools, our tax dollars and traffic. This process also revealed a deep distrust between the residents of Lynbrook and the current administration, which is all the more reason Lynbrook residents have been so engaged in this electoral process. No massive, no-bid development should be considered for that location — or any location. Furthermore, all projects that have the potential to devastate our way of life in our village should be considered with full transparency and public input. Lynbrook is by no means in desperation mode, and we should not be selling ourselves short . . . Condominiums, co-ops or townhouses are the types of projects we should be encouraging for our downtown.
Herald: What can be done to ensure that future revitalization projects will help the business district and strengthen the village’s tax base?
Beach: I would be interested in helping incentivize building owners with vacancies to look at new, innovative uses for their buildings such as co-working and collaborative spaces for start-up companies, small businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers. Just recently, a Lynbrook startup company, Ghee Gourmet, which produces ghee butter, a cooking oil substitute, was featured at the Academy Awards by having their products placed in the attendees’ gift bags. Let’s encourage other entrepreneurs and startup leaders that Lynbrook can be a place to innovate and do business.
Becker: We are very fortunate that the new [movie] theater is providing a significant amount of foot traffic and revenue. Many of the vacant stores are being rented, which is what we were hoping for. However, with the new foot traffic comes an increase in congestion and parking issues, so before we do anything, it would be best for us to hire a professional planning firm that specializes in small downtown areas, and have them develop a strategic master plan that focuses on five key areas: gauging residents’ preferences, maximizing foot traffic, maximizing tax revenues, minimizing traffic congestion and parking issues, and maintaining our small-town feel.
Herald: What businesses would you like to see in the village, and how would you entice them to open in Lynbrook?
Beach: While I want to continue to maintain and attract a core group of traditional retail businesses, I would also look at supplementing our business community with other establishments that would be immune from online competition and increase foot traffic, such as a paint-and-sip wine bar, a live-music venue or a mini-performance center for the arts. Business owners are enticed to open businesses here because of our location, proximity to Manhattan and means of mass transit. Lynbrook was also ranked one of the 10 safest places to live in the state, thanks in large part to the Police Department. We have implemented a beautification program that included the addition of music and flowers downtown, brick sidewalks and new lighting that help make us a business-friendly community.
Becker: A specialty food market such as Trader Joe’s would be nice, but many of the storefronts will be rented to smaller mom-and-pop-type businesses, and these are the lifeblood of downtown areas. We need strong anchors, and should look at options like a major medical facility or professional offices, which would provide us with foot traffic for the times that the theater is slow. We should avoid tax breaks for businesses and encourage projects that are based on homeownership. I’ve been studying and teaching all facets of real estate for the past 40 years, and with my knowledge and experience in running several small businesses that focus on real estate appraisal and brokerage, I have the skills, professional experience and education that can make sure that we position Lynbrook as strongly as possible. Through a tax cut from the village and additional revenue streams that lower the tax burden on our homeowners and regional businesses, we can bring new meaning to shopping locally.
Herald: Traffic, parking and poor road conditions are three issues Lynbrook residents seem to discuss the most. What can be done to address them?
Beach: Over the past decade, I promoted an aggressive road-improvement plan, which fixed more than 100 village roads. I have addressed issues with county roads with the proper agencies, and I will continue to advocate for Lynbrook, just as I did with the Long Island Rail Road on our station’s planned $17.9 million overhaul.
I’m always looking for ways to improve traffic flow. We study the timing of lights and the patterns of traffic during various times of the day to try to alleviate some of the congestion.
My administration has taken a multi-pronged approach to increase parking in our village. We worked with the LIRR to get back the 233 parking spaces under the tracks for our commuters and shoppers, we added pay-by-phone parking meters, and I worked with private businesses to open lots during off hours. We also converted 30 unused meter spaces near the library for commuters and business employees. I plan to cut fees for our commuters and create a committee in charge of parking studies.
Becker: Improving traffic flow and parking can be done through relationship- building. We don’t have to build a parking garage. Options to improve parking include innovating new and improved ways to allow people to park, working with the Police Department to ensure that our parking and traffic laws are effectively enforced, and implementing a trolley or shuttle to help people get around.
Road problems can be fixed by fostering relationships with local leaders. As deputy mayor, I have contacted County Executive Laura Curran and met with her department heads in an effort to expedite the roads that are in most need of repair, such as Broadway, Atlantic Avenue, Peninsula Boulevard and others. I will make sure that our roads are the first ones to be fixed, and I have the relationships and skills in place to get this done.