Longtime Hempstead Town Councilman Gary Hudes, whose 6th District includes East Meadow, announced on March 20 that he would step down from the board in June after 17 years.
“I will certainly miss following up on issues that are near and dear to my heart,” Hudes said. “But now it’s time for me to spend time with my own family.”
Hudes, 61, said while running for re-election in 2013 that he got into politics because he loved helping people, and that he enjoyed being “at the bottom of the totem pole,” where he could spend more time speaking directly with his constituents. He particularly enjoyed working on two problems while in office: eliminating graffiti and maintaining “zombie” homes.
As the chairman of the Anti-Graffiti Task Force, Hudes championed graffiti-control legislation that penalizes property owners who do not remove graffiti. For those who are unable to clean up the graffiti on their own, Hudes recruits Boy Scouts and other volunteers to paint over it. He was the driving force behind the town’s implementation of “zero tolerance” for graffiti vandals, and prosecutes those who are caught tagging property.
“I just hate graffiti,” Hudes said. “It’s a complete eyesore, it’s disrespectful and it’s just plain wrong.”
Another problem that Hudes tried to eliminate is zombie homes, abandoned homes that are neglected and deteriorating. “I worked hard to pass local laws that hold banks accountable for maintaining these homes,” he said. “Banks and other lenders are required to maintain their properties by cutting the grass and making sure the home looks maintained.”
Hudes said that the driving force behind his effort to maintain abandoned homes is his constituents. The cost of living on Long Island is extremely high, he said, and homeowners take pride in their homes. “They looked across the street and saw a house with boarded-up windows,” he said. “That’s not how they want their neighborhood to look like.”
In East Meadow, Hudes said, his passion to beautify the town led him to persuade several businesses to take up residency in a few empty buildings, including Sonic, on Hempstead Turnpike, and Stew Leonard’s, on Front Street.
“Sometimes people don’t realize how tough it is to get new businesses to come into town,” he said. “It often takes years for things to line up, but thankfully we have a few major openings coming up in East Meadow that I’m proud to have been a part of. I love East Meadow, and I enjoy seeing the town thrive.”
Hudes owns Gennaro Jewelers in Bellmore, and plans to continue working there. He has served as president of the Bellmore Chamber of Commerce as well as the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce. There he instituted a community partnership with Hofstra University to establish an education program for small businesses.
“I’ve known Councilman Hudes for 17 or 18 years,” said Richard Bivone, founder of the East Meadow-based RMB Development Consultants. Bivone served as Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce president several years after Hudes left, and they have kept in touch over the years. When he heard about Hudes’s retirement, Bivone said, he was just as surprised as everyone else.
“Working with him on projects to make the community better was truly a privilege,” Bivone said. “He always put the people first and made sure they were well taken care of. The East Meadow community is going to miss Gary tremendously.”
Hudes said that serving residents of East Meadow, Bellmore, Bethpage, Levittown, Merrick, Seaford and Wantagh has been a tremendous honor. He thanked his constituents and members of his staff for making his time in government memorable.
“I’ve given 110 percent my whole time I was with the town,” he said. “My goal was to bring customer service to the town, which is what I think I did. Now it’s time for the lone ranger to ride off into the sunset.”
Rebecca Anderson and Erik Hawkins contributed to this story.