As candidates for state offices rushed back and forth across Nassau County for meet-and-greets in the final stretches of their campaigns last week, five vying to represent Elmont stopped by the Elmont Memorial Library on Oct. 23 to present themselves and their stances to voters.
Nancy Rosenthal, president of the League of Women Voters of Nassau County, organized the event, which was moderated by Parkhurst Civic Association Vice President Aubrey Phillips.
“This election is important and goes beyond the statements made here tonight,” Phillips said, as she asked candidates to address local residents’ chief concerns.
The first issue raised was the planned development at Belmont Park, which many residents have expressed opposition to. New York State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, a Democrat from Elmont, who represents the 22nd District, said that while all the details for the project have yet to be revealed, she said she believes that a large sports venue would not be in the community’s best interest.
“Stadiums do not bring economic development for the communities they’re built around,” she said.
State Sen. Elaine Phillips, a Republican from Flower Hill, who is running in the 7th District, said that while she does support an Islanders venue at Belmont, she wants to hold the state and developers accountable for the promises they made to the community when they first announced their plans to renovate Belmont Park. She added that she not want development to infringe on people’s quality of life by leading to traffic congestion on Hempstead Turnpike and the Cross Island Parkway.
Phillips said that without a proper transportation system in place, like that of a dedicated Long Island Rail Road station at Belmont, the project could not have a successful start. Additionally, she said she has also reached out to find solutions for the local car dealerships that use Belmont’s southern parking lot, which will be converted to a retail center under the current plans.
“It’s the developer’s obligation to respond to our questions, and they’re not going to get away with holding one public hearing in December once the [Environmental Impact] Study comes out,” Phillips said.
Empire State Development, which is overseeing the arena’s development, is currently conducting the study as it surveys the land around Belmont Park. It has scheduled the release of the EIS and community feedback for the coming months.
Another big concern for Elmont residents is the skyrocketing cost of living in Nassau County, which continues to be one of the most expensive places to live in the country, according to reports by Business Insider and Forbes. Phillips’s opponent, Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, explained that rising housing costs in the county make it difficult for seniors and young adults to stay.
But Kaplan said that there are various tax credits available for seniors to take advantage of, and she could help bring more affordable housing units to local seniors, much like she did for seniors in Manhasset. Kaplan added that she is trying a similar solution for young adults in her native Great Neck.
“We need younger people to move in, allocate their savings and buy a home here,” she said.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, who is running in the 9th District, told Elmont residents that affordable housing and rent laws were a big item on his agenda for 2019. With the state’s rent laws expiring next summer, the Senate and Assembly will revise the laws, which local residents said they wanted to be more flexible, as more and more homeowners in Elmont and Franklin Square have rented out rooms to help pay for their rising expenses. Kaminsky said that if Democrats were to take the Senate, “we’ll see more tenant-friendly rental laws.”
“Rent is definitely one of the big progressive items for the year,” he said.
Kaminsky and Kaplan were also the only two candidates that night who discussed their environmental concerns. Kaminsky is looking to become the chairman of state’s Environmental Conservation Committee, if re-elected.
Kaminsky’s opponent, former Nassau County Legislator Francis Becker, a Republican from Lynbrook, answered residents’ worries over school and gun safety. Like his fellow candidates, Becker said he believed that there is no place for guns in schools, and supported bipartisan efforts to pass the “red flag” bill, which would prevent at-risk individuals from buying firearms in New York. He said he also wants the state to provide aid to schools with troubled students, citing the problems at the neighboring Hempstead School District.
“The district took in all these immigrant children, and they weren’t given any aid,” Becker said. “Every child deserves an education. Hempstead schools have been shortchanged.”
The only candidate not at the event was Gonald Moncion, the Republican challenging Solages.
Rosenthal thanked the candidates for coming to Elmont, and reminded people that ride-sharing services like Uber were providing free and discounted rides for voters to get to the polls on Election Day. She also requested that people carve out time to vote in their schedules.
“Our studies show that if you don’t have a plan ready on Election Day, you won’t go out and vote,” she said.
Residents can follow a link on elmont.org to find their polling places for Nov. 6.