“When you’re just driving around,” said Lou Saulino, the new director of the Glen Cove Department of Public Works, “you see things that maybe regular people don’t see.”
The concrete spoiling in the downtown parking garage, for example, or slabs of asphalt at risk of opening up into potholes.
“You’re always observing,” the 69-year-old from Farmingville said, adding that, as a civil engineer, “You always have that in your mind. It’s just the nature of the beast.”
Often, Saulino said, a municipality will put off regular maintenance projects, like the concrete in the garage, until they become necessary repairs, which cost more money and cause more problems. One of his top priorities is coming up with a “capital improvement plan,” which will allow the city to be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to its infrastructure.
Saulino has inheriting a host of problems that this approach might have helped prevent. The closing of East Beach Road, which leads to Prybil Beach, due to severe potholes, and the closure of Glen Cove’s wells, due to contaminants, are two examples.
In addition, less than two weeks after he was appointed to the directorship, the workers in the department’s highway division — Saulino called them a “very strong … excellent blue-collar staff” — had to contend with three winter storms in two weeks, with high winds that blew down trees and tore out power lines.
Saulino has been a civil engineer for 40 years. He got into the field because he had a head for math, and “it just seemed like a good place to hang my hat,” he said.
He spent his first nine years after graduating from Manhattan College as a public servant, working for New York state’s Department of Transportation — “a lot of a high-accident locations, or mediation coordination with the projects that were going on in … Nassau and Suffolk” — and then spent another year in Babylon doing roughly the same thing.
After that, Saulino moved into the private sector, where he worked for about 30 years in several firms, eventually working his way up to the executive level. Then, beginning in 2011, he took a hiatus, and began writing novels. He has self-published five books, mostly about sports, but most recently finished a murder mystery.
“I really don’t consider myself a writer, per se,” he said. “I’m more of a storyteller. It actually came pretty easily for me.” He added that his fiction writing “wasn’t really a chore,” like his work-related writing — engineering letters and reports — tended to be.
Since taking up his post in Glen Cove, Saulino said, he has made an effort to get to know the city. “I’ve done some of the tours with the key guys just to get more familiar with the roadways and the water,” he said. He had had to reschedule a facilities review because of the first nor’easter, and after speaking with the Herald Gazette, he had to run to a meeting focusing on Crescent Beach, which has been closed for almost a decade, since sewage from nearby homes began contaminating the shoreline.
“He’s just getting in, so he’s still getting his feet wet,” Manny Grella, the DPW’s general foreman, said of Saulino, adding that, so far, “He’s been great. Very knowledgeable and smart.”
“Lou came highly recommended by public works and engineering professionals whose opinions I value,” Mayor Tim Tenke said of Saulino. “His expertise, experience and engineering credentials were an ideal match for leading the construction of the Garvies Point Road which is a priority project for our Department of Public Works.”
Getting to know the city, Saulino knows, means getting to know the people who work for him. “I really feel it’s important to say hello to every person that works with the DPW,” he said. “I’m a people person. That’s the way I like to run things.”
He added, “Ninety percent of the people who work for the city, live in the city. I just want to learn as much as I can about it.”
Among the largest undertakings he has inherited is the Garvies Point project, a $1 billion shopping and residential center that involves both the city and a private developer. That development, and others that will require such cooperation, will require him to essentially play the role of a couple’s therapist, he said. “It’s always good to understand what a municipality’s perspective is, and then what the perspective of the developers is, and try to make that a happy marriage.”
And with any “happy marriage,” Saulino said, communication is key. “Our goal right now,” he said, “is to make sure that both sides of the equation are talking to each other, communicating and acting in the best interest of the residents of the City of Glen Cove.”